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Groundwater Flow and Transport Modeling at the Ulba Metallurgical Plant

#K-882


Simulation of Groundwater Flow and Contaminant Transport at the Ulba Metallurgical Plant

Tech Area / Field

  • ENV-MRA/Modelling and Risk Assessment/Environment
  • ENV-WPC/Water Pollution and Control/Environment

Status
8 Project completed

Registration date
13.05.2002

Completion date
12.09.2006

Senior Project Manager
Isakov S V

Leading Institute
State Holding Company "Ulba", Kazakstan, Ust Kamenogorsk

Supporting institutes

  • National Atomic Company "Kazatomprom", Kazakstan, Almaty

Collaborators

  • Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory / University of California, USA, CA, Livermore

Project summary

This project will develop a hydrologic flow and contaminant transport model for the groundwater underlying the Ulba Metallurgical Plant (UMP) in Ust-Kamenogorsk, Kazakhstan. The model will be used initially to determine the need for, and to guide the acquisition of additional characterization and model calibration data, in the design of monitoring strategies and ultimately, as a means to protect local groundwater quality by facilitating the remediation of existing contamination and the stabilization and control of contaminant discharges from liquid waste ponds at the plant.

The UMP is situated in Ust-Kamenogorsk, in eastern Kazakhstan. In its 50-year history of continual operation, the facility has dominated the industrial base of the city through the production of processed uranium and specialty metals such as beryllium, tantalum, and niobium. Accompanying the production of these metals is a significant amount of liquid waste residues, which have been, and continue to be generated and disposed of in several retention basins adjoining the facility.

The engineered containment barrier underlying one of the basins has failed and allowed accumulated liquid wastes in the basin to percolate into groundwater and pose a significant threat to nearby potable groundwater supplies in Ust-Kamenogorsk. Although this basin is no longer used, precipitated and other solid forms of the wastes remain in the basin, are entrained in accumulated rainfall and snowmelt, and continue to be discharged into the local groundwater as a persistent and lasting source of contamination. The significance of the contamination of local water resources has recently been recognized by the World Bank who specifically identify waste disposal practices from the Ulba Metallurgical Plant as a serious water quality problem affecting Kazakhstan.

The overall objective of the project is to develop a conceptual and numerical model of groundwater flow and chemical transport that can be used to analyze the migration of contamination in the water supply aquifers underlying the UMP disposal basins. The model will be used ultimately as a means to protect local groundwater quality by facilitating the remediation of existing contamination and the stabilization and control of contaminant discharges from liquid waste ponds at the plant. In addition, the model will also be used, in its initial stages of development, to determine the need for, and guide the acquisition of additional characterization and model calibration data, and later in the design of groundwater monitoring strategies.

The approach to this problem is based upon the notion that the physical and geochemical conceptualization of the hydrogeologic flow and transport system will be an iterative process. It will build upon successive stages of data analysis, model development, testing, and calibration, additional data acquisition, and the ultimate application of the model for design and management purposes. This project will be broken into three separate tasks focused on: 1) The development of groundwater flow models including the development of models based upon existing geologic and hydrogeologic data that may subsequently require more data acquisition and characterization. 2) The development of a contaminant transport model that includes simulations of the chemical migration of contaminants coupled to the hydrologeolic flow model. Initially the transport model will focus on pathlines and nonreactive (tracer) transport away from the basins and later incorporate multicomponent and reactive transport. In concert with the contaminant transport model the liquid and precipitate waste in the disposal basins will be characterized to identify the reactions governing potential transport. 3) The coupled flow and transport model will be used to provide information to best monitor existing and future contaminant plumes and manage existing water supplies to stabilize existing contamination and provide a regular quantity of high-quality water for the city of Ust-Kamenogorst.


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