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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Penetration of liquid fingers into superheated fractured rock

  • Author(s): Birkholzer, Jens
  • et al.

Water infiltrating down a fracture in unsaturated rock experiences complex fluid-flow and heat-transfer phenomena when entering above-boiling rock temperature regions. Such conditions are expected, for example, after emplacement of heat-generating nuclear waste in underground repositories. A new, efficient semi-analytical method is proposed in this paper that simulates the flow processes of infiltration events subject to vigorous boiling from the adjacent hot rock. It is assumed that liquid flow forms in localized preferential flow paths, and that infiltration events are typically short in duration but large in magnitude relative to the average net infiltration. The new solution scheme is applied to several test cases studying sensitivity to a variety of input parameters. Sample simulations are performed for conditions representative of the potential nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. A characteristic parameter is introduced that provides a quick estimate of the relative significance of boiling at a given location of interest.

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