Estimation of Near-Regional Seismic Ground Motion from Underground Nuclear Explosion Tests

by Theron J. Bennett, Maxwell Lab, Inc, Reston, United States,
John R. Murphy, Maxwell Lab, Inc, Reston, United States,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: Dynamic Analysis and Design Considerations for High-Level Nuclear Waste Repositories


A problem unique to the location of a nuclear waste repository adjacent to the Nevada Test Site is the assessment of seismic ground motion from potential underground nuclear explosion tests for use in the facility design. Although the problem is unique, it is not new. For more than 30 years the Department of Energy and its predecessor, the Atomic Energy Commission, have maintained a program for predicting and monitoring vibratory ground motion from underground nuclear detonations for use in assuring the safety of structures in the surrounding region. Over the course of the monitoring effort, ground motion measurements have been collected at ranges from less than 1 km to more than 100 km for hundreds of nuclear explosions covering yields from less than 1 to 1000 kilotons in a variety of emplacement media. The ground motion prediction scheme which has evolved from this program utilizes a combination of empirical and analytical elements. This scheme takes into account (1) source factors including explosion yield, depth of burial, physical medium properties and geometrical configuration of multiples, (2) transmission path factors including distance, crustal structure and propagation properties such as attenuation, and (3) recording site response based on local structure, soil properties and seismic wave type. Prediction relations based on this past experience can be used to estimate vibratory ground motion and an associated uncertainty at the Yucca Mountain site from potential future nuclear explosions in different test areas at NTS. These predictions can be verified with calibration events using either nuclear or chemical explosions. Given treaty-imposed limitations on nuclear testing, it is unlikely that future tests will produce ground motions which exceed the range of past experience.

Subject Headings: Ground motion | Seismic tests | Underground structures | Explosions | Seismic design | Seismic waves | Radioactive wastes | Nevada | United States

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