Abstract

In preparation for the next phase of the Source Physics Experiments, we acquired an active‐source seismic dataset along two transects totaling more than 30 km in length at Yucca Flat, Nevada, on the Nevada National Security Site. Yucca Flat is a sedimentary basin which has hosted more than 650 underground nuclear tests (UGTs). The survey source was a novel 13,000 kg modified industrial pile driver. This weight drop source proved to be broadband and repeatable, richer in low frequencies (1–3 Hz) than traditional vibrator sources and capable of producing peak particle velocities similar to those produced by a 50 kg explosive charge. In this study, we performed a joint inversion of P‐wave refraction travel times and Rayleigh‐wave phase‐velocity dispersion curves for the P‐ and S‐wave velocity structure of Yucca Flat. Phase‐velocity surface‐wave dispersion measurements were obtained via the refraction microtremor method on 1 km arrays, with 80% overlap. Our P‐wave velocity models verify and expand the current understanding of Yucca Flat’s subsurface geometry and bulk properties such as depth to Paleozoic basement and shallow alluvium velocity. Areas of disagreement between this study and the current geologic model of Yucca Flat (derived from borehole studies) generally correlate with areas of widely spaced borehole control points. This provides an opportunity to update the existing model, which is used for modeling groundwater flow and radionuclide transport. Scattering caused by UGT‐related high‐contrast velocity anomalies substantially reduced the number and frequency bandwidth of usable dispersion picks. The S‐wave velocity models presented in this study agree with existing basin‐wide studies of Yucca Flat, but are compromised by diminished surface‐wave coherence as a product of this scattering. As nuclear nonproliferation monitoring moves from teleseismic to regional or even local distances, such high‐frequency (>5  Hz) scattering could prove challenging when attempting to discriminate events in areas of previous testing.

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