Stable Isotopic Evidence for a Pedogenic Origin of Carbonates in Trench 14 near Yucca Mountain, Nevada

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Science  14 Dec 1990:
Vol. 250, Issue 4987, pp. 1549-1552
DOI: 10.1126/science.250.4987.1549


Layered carbonate and silica encrust fault fractures exposed in Trench 14 near Yucca Mountain, site of the proposed high-level nuclear waste repository in southern Nevada. Comparison of the stable carbon and oxygen isotopic compositions of the fracture carbonates with those of modern soil carbonates in the area shows that the fracture carbonates are pedogenic in origin and that they likely formed in the presence of vegetation and rainfall typical of a glacial climate. Their isotopic composition differs markedly from that of carbonate associated with nearby springs. The regional water table therefore remained below the level of Trench 14 during the time that the carbonates and silica precipitated, a period probably covering parts of at least the last 300,000 years.

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