Modeling Thermal-Hydrologic Processes for a Heated Fractured Rock System: Impact of a Capillary-Pressure Maximum
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Modeling Thermal-Hydrologic Processes for a Heated Fractured Rock System: Impact of a Capillary-Pressure Maximum


Various thermal-hydrologic models have been developed to simulate thermal-hydrologic conditions in emplacement drifts and surrounding host rock for the proposed high-level nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. The modeling involves two-phase (liquid and gas) and two-component (water and air) transport in a fractured-rock system, which is conceptualized as a dual-permeability medium. Simulated hydrologic processes depend upon calibrated system parameters, such as the van Genuchten α and m, which quantify the capillary properties of the fractures and rock matrix. Typically, these parameters are not calibrated for strongly heat-driven conditions, i.e., conditions for which boiling and rock dryout occur. The objective of this study is to modify the relationship between capillary pressure and saturation, P c(S), for strongly heated conditions that drive saturation below the residual saturation (S → 0). We offer various extensions to the van Genuchten capillary-pressure function and compare results from a thermal-hydrologic model with data collected during the Drift-Scale Test, an in situ thermal test at Yucca Mountain, to investigate the suitability of these various P c extension methods. The study suggests that the use of extension methods and the imposition of a capillary-pressure cap (or maximum) improve the agreement between Drift-Scale Test data and model results for strongly heat-driven conditions. However, for thermal-hydrologic models of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, temperature and relative humidity are insensitive to the choice of extension method for the capillary-pressure function. Therefore, the choice of extension method applied to models of drift-scale thermal-hydrologic behavior at Yucca Mountain can be made on the basis of numerical performance.

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