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Groundwater Characterization

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Click here to learn about ongoing groundwater characterization activities at the Nevada National Security Site via a video on our YouTube channel.

Click here to open an interactive map that shows deep sub-surface contamination sites identified as a result of historic underground nuclear testing.


From 1951 to 1992, 828 underground nuclear tests were conducted at the Nevada National Security Site. Most of these tests were conducted hundreds of feet above the groundwater table; however, more than 200 were detonated in proximity of, or within, the water table. These underground tests were limited to specific areas of the Nevada National Security Site including Pahute Mesa, Rainier Mesa/Shoshone Mountain, Frenchman Flat, and Yucca Flat.

Currently, there is no proven, feasible method for removing radioactive contamination from the groundwater at the Nevada National Security Site. The Nevada Field Office strategy is to identify contaminant boundaries and implement an effective, long-term monitoring system.

The first phase of the strategy consisted of a regional evaluation, which explored the groundwater pathways over the entire Nevada National Security Site. The second phase (currently in progress) will help scientists determine contaminant movement and the boundaries unique to each of the underground test areas. Both of these phases incorporate various components, such as sampling, contaminant characterization, computer modeling, and process validation.

The entire groundwater strategy, including modeling results and documentation/reports, is accomplished in accordance with the Federal Facility Agreement and Consent Order, an agreement under the regulatory authority and oversight by the State of Nevada Division of Environmental Protection.

For more information:

PDF icon Groundwater Characterization Strategy [PDF, 1.8 MB]

PDF icon Groundwater Qs and As [PDF, 3.9 MB]

PDF icon Federal Facility Agreement and Consent Order [PDF, 610 KB]

PDF icon September 2012 Groundwater Open House Posters [PDF, 16 MB]

PDF icon Regional Groundwater Flow and Tritium Transport Modeling and Risk Assessment of the Underground Test Area, Nevada National Security Site, Nevada [PDF, 144.8 MB]

PDF icon Underground Test Area Project - Phase I Transport Model of Corrective Action Units 101 and 102 [PDF, 31.4 MB]

PDF icon Groundwater Flow Model of Corrective Action Units 101 and 102 - Part 1 [PDF, 18.3 MB]

PDF icon Groundwater Flow Model of Corrective Action Units 101 and 102 - Part 2 [PDF, 37.9 MB]

PDF icon Groundwater Flow Model of Corrective Action Units 101 and 102 - Part 3 [PDF, 12 MB]

PDF icon Groundwater Flow Model of Corrective Action Units 101 and 102 - Part 4 [PDF, 6.4 MB]

PDF icon Groundwater Flow Model of Corrective Action Units 101 and 102 - Part 5 [PDF, 7.4 MB]

PDF icon Groundwater Flow Model of Corrective Action Units 101 and 102 - Part 6 [PDF, 39 MB]

PDF icon Phase II Corrective Action Investigation Plan for Corrective Action Units 101 and 102 - Part 1 [PDF, 6.8 MB]

PDF icon Phase II Corrective Action Investigation Plan for Corrective Action Units 101 and 102 - Part 2 [PDF, 39.8 MB]

April 2010 Frenchman Flat Peer Review Documents

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Date Last Modified: February 20, 2014