Subsurface radionuclide investigation of a nuclear test

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Journal of Applied Geophysics








This paper reports on an environmental investigation into the vertical distribution of radionuclides from a nuclear test. Dalhart is the name of an underground nuclear test that was executed at the Nevada Test Site at a depth of 2100 ft on October 13, 1988. The test occurred below the static water level of 1667 ft and created multiple radioactive isotopes or fission products. These radioactive isotopes penetrated the surrounding formations and chimney region above the test and were retained there. A 19° 9- 7 8-inch diameter slant hole was drilled to sample the geologic material in the chimney region above the Dalhart test for the purpose of assessing the distribution of radioactivity in and around the shot site. A 30-ft core recovered from a vertical depth of 1628 ft in the collapsed zone or chimney region and above the original static water level was found to be free of radionuclides. Drilling was completed to a vertical depth of 2156 ft with the present static water level at a vertical depth of 1644 ft. Gamma-ray spectroscopy log measurements, made within the drill pipe while drilling fluid was pumped through this pipe, indicate that radioactive material produced by the test was present from the vertical depth interval of 1746-2156 ft. Side-wall samples acquired from the vertical depth interval of 1721-2089 ft and analyzed in the field contained radionuclides such as 137Cs, 125Sb, 106Ru, plus the natural radioactive background of potassium, uranium, and thorium. These samples were sent to Los Alamos to determine the complete radionuclide content at each depth. These analyses were used with the gamma-ray spectroscopy logging data to determine the subsurface vertical radionuclide distribution at the Dalhart site. © 1994.

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