US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Published in Science, New Series, Vol. 254, No. 5031 (Oct. 25, 1991), pp. 551-554.


Hydrogenic calcite and opaline silica deposits in fault zones at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, have created considerable public and scientific controversy because of the possible development of a high-level nuclear waste repository at this location. Strontium and uranium isotopic compositions of hydrogenic materials were used to test whether the veins could have formed by upwelling of deep-seated waters. The vein deposits are isotopically distinct from ground water in the two aquifers that underlie Yucca Mountain, indicating that the calcite could not have precipitated from ground water. The data are consistent with a surficial origin for the hydrogenic deposits.