Geologic Investigation of a Potential Site for a Next-Generation
Reactor Neutrino Oscillation Experiment -- Diablo Canyon, San Luis Obispo
This report provides information on the geology and selected physical and mechanical properties of surface rocks collected at Diablo Canyon, San Luis Obispo County, California as part of the design and engineering studies towards a future reactor neutrino oscillation experiment. The main objective of this neutrino project is to study the process of neutrino flavor transformation or neutrino oscillation by measuring neutrinos produced in the fission reactions of a nuclear power plant. Diablo Canyon was selected as a candidate site because it allows the detectors to be situated underground in a tunnel close to the source of neutrinos (i.e., at a distance of several hundred meters from the nuclear power plant) while having suitable topography for shielding against cosmic rays. The detectors have to be located underground to minimize the cosmic ray-related background noise that can mimic the signal of reactor neutrino interactions in the detector. Three Pliocene-Miocene marine sedimentary units dominate the geology of Diablo Canyon: the Pismo Formation, the Monterey Formation, and the Obispo Formation. The area is tectonically active, located east of the active Hosgri Fault and in the southern limb of the northwest trending Pismo Syncline. Most of the potential tunnel for the neutrino detector lies within the Obispo Formation. Review of previous geologic studies, observations from a field visit, and selected physical and mechanical properties of rock samples collected from the site provided baseline geological information used in developing a preliminary estimate for tunneling construction cost. Gamma-ray spectrometric results indicate low levels of radioactivity for uranium, thorium, and potassium. Grain density, bulk density, and porosity values for these rock samples range from 2.37 to 2.86 g/cc, 1.41 to 2.57 g/cc, and 1.94 to 68.5 percent respectively. Point load, unconfined compressive strength, and ultrasonic velocity tests were conducted to determine rock mechanical and acoustic properties. The rock strength values range from 23 to 219 MPa and the Poisson's ratio from 0.1 to 0.38. Potential geologic hazards in the Diablo Canyon area were identified and described to provide an overall picture of processes that may affect tunnel construction activities.