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Radionuclide Distribution within Rock Destruction Zones


Peculiarities of Radionuclide Distribution within Rock Destruction Zones and Assessment of Possible Consequences of Geological Environment Radioactive Contamination at the Semipalatinsk Test Site Examplitied by "Sary-Uzwn" Site 102

Tech Area / Field

  • ENV-SPC/Solid Waste Pollution and Control/Environment
  • ENV-WPC/Water Pollution and Control/Environment

3 Approved without Funding

Registration date

Leading Institute
National Nuclear Center of the Republic of Kazakstan / Institute of Radiation Security and Ecology, Kazakstan, Kurchatov

Supporting institutes

  • Institute of Global Climate and Ecology, Russia, Moscow\nNational Nuclear Center of the Republic of Kazakstan / Institute of Geophysical Researches, Kazakstan, Kurchatov\nInstitute of Dynamics of the Geosphere, Russia, Moscow


  • Pacific Northwest National Laboratory / Battelle, Putting Technology to Work, USA, WA, Richland

Project summary

The Objective of Project is to study of modern radionuclide distribution within rock destruction zones formed by underground nuclear explosions (UNEs) conducted at the Semipalatinsk Test Site (STS) for making a model of radionuclide migration in the geological environment. To attain the objective set, it is proposed to carry out, stage-by-stage, a complex of scientific-methodical and experimental investigations of a central part of underground nuclear explosion (UNE CP). It is planned to appraise the radiation situation on sampling near-mouth areas and within the fixed radioactive footprints to monitor the probable mass contamination from the surface.

Based on the retrospective analysis of archival information about radioactive contamination of the geological environment due to UNEs, certain STS area will be selected to study the radionuclide distribution in zones of irreversible deformation of the rock mass. Archival data will also be used to assess the man-made situation, including characterization of permeability of destructed rock zones and determination of positions of contaminated aureoles in the geological environment at various depths including topsoil.

It is planned to work out procedures for combination of field and laboratory methods to sample of representative rock, water and soil samples and subsequently analyze of radionuclide content. When choosing major types of geological-geophysical, hydrogeological and radiometric research, results of experimental investigations performed for sampling holes, techniques and requirements to meet the radiation safety standards, and data produced by the K-810 Project will be taken into account. Methods of digital image processing of space photo of high resoluation will be used for detection of surface post-explosion deformation areas (LESSA program).

Expeditions to designated STS area will help specify conditions of the radionuclide distribution due to man-caused disturbance of the geological environment by an explosion. Main pathways of the radionuclide migration will be studied in both rock destruction zones and ash-like man-made soil - a new layer generated by an excavation UNE and beyond-design situations. Field investigations will be supported by monitoring of the radiation situation in the working area.

When processing experimental data, security of radionuclide retention in the rock mass and ash-like soil will be assessed. A comparative analysis of radionuclide distribution in soil samples from near-mouth areas, water and core samples from holes will make it possible to account for contamination wash-off from the surface and to confirm or deny “accuracy” of experimental investigations within the UNE CP.

A new database of radionuclide content in zones of irreversible rock deformation, ground water and topsoil will form a basis for making a model of radionuclide migration in the geological environment at sites of enhanced risk in case of beyond-design situations.

A need in the present Project showed up in the course of the K-810 Project implementation, which addresses the radionuclide migration with ground water. Experimental data produced by monitoring of the groundwater level surface, chemical composition and radionuclide content in aquifer pointed out an halo of radioactive contamination in ground water localized within a cone of depression confined to the post-UNE cavity.

The Project proposed has no analogues and incorporates original research into assessment of the permeability of rock destruction zones and radioactive contamination of the geological environment and soil profile. The high skill level of specialists from IRSE RK NNC, IGR RK NNC, SE IGCE, and IGD RAS experienced in the assessment of nuclear test effects will ensure impartial statement of the problem under study. Research will be performed by the former weapon scientists.

Staff members of SE IGCE and IGD RAS who were directly involved in preparation and performance of UNEs at the STS will provide scientific and methodical guidance of the Project works. Specialists from IRSE RK NNC presently monitor the radiation situation at and around the STS. Scientists from IGR RK NNC have wide hands-on experience in drilling of holes for sampling and performing integrated investigations. Wide experience in laboratory works will permit the SE IGCE and IRSE RK NNC specialists to reliably analyze the radionuclide content of water and rock samples taken from different zones of irreversible rock deformation and of soil samples as well.

Personnel of SE IGCE and IGD RAS, who directly participated in field and experimental survey on STS during UNEs, will exercise the works supervision. IRSE RK NNC staff fulfils current monitoring of radiation situation on STS and adjacent territory. Staff of IGR RK NNC has wide practical experience in drilling of sampling holes and conduction of complex borehole measurements and areal studies. The current experience in laboratory investigations allow for experts of SE IGCE and IRSE RK NNC to implement the adequate analysis of radionuclide content in water and rock samples, taken from different zones of irreversible mass deformation and in soil profile.

Arrangement and performance of integrated research of the radionuclide distribution in UNE-destructed rock zones will facilitate development of systems to control the radiation-ecological situation at sites of enhanced risk. Results of experimental investigations will be of certain interest for international research institutions dealing with problems of safe operation of NPPs and RW storage sites.


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