Circulation of bubbly magma and gas segregation within tunnels of the potential Yucca Mountain repository

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Following an intersection of rising magma with drifts of the potential Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, a pathway is likely to be established to the surface with magma flowing for days to weeks and affecting the performance of engineered structures located along or near the flow path. In particular, convective circulation could occur within magma-filled drifts due to the exsolution and segregation of magmatic gas. We investigate gas segregation in a magma-filled drift intersected by a vertical dyke by means of analogue experiments, focusing on the conditions of sustained magma flow. Degassing is simulated by electrolysis, producing micrometric bubbles in viscous mixtures of water and golden syrup, or by aerating golden syrup, producing polydisperse bubbly mixtures with 40% of gas by volume. The presence of exsolved bubbles induces a buoyancy-driven exchange flow between the dyke and the drift that leads to gas segregation. Bubbles segregate from the magma by rising and accumulating as a foam at the top of the drift, coupled with the accumulation of denser degassed magma at the base of the drift. Steady-state influx of bubbly magma from the dyke into the drift is balanced by outward flux of lighter foam and denser degassed magma. The length and time scales of this gas segregation are controlled by the rise of bubbles in the horizontal drift. Steady-state gas segregation would be accomplished within hours to hundreds of years depending on the viscosity of the degassed magma and the average size of exsolved gas bubbles, and the resulting foam would only be a few cm thick. The exchange flux of bubbly magma between the dyke and the drift that is induced by gas segregation ranges from 1 m3 s−1, for the less viscous magmas, to 10−8 m3 s−1, for the most viscous degassed magmas, with associated velocities ranging from 10−1 to 10−9 m s−1 for the same viscosity range. This model of gas segregation also predicts that the relative proportion of erupted degassed magma, that could potentially carry and entrain nuclear waste material towards the surface, would depend on the value of the dyke magma supply rate relative to the value of the gas segregation flux, with violent eruption of gassy as well as degassed magmas at relatively high magma supply rates, and eruption of mainly degassed magma by milder episodic Strombolian explosions at relatively lower supply rates.
Translated title of the contributionCirculation of bubbly magma and gas segregation within tunnels of the potential Yucca Mountain repository
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)947 - 960
Number of pages14
JournalBulletin of Volcanology
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2008

Bibliographical note

Publisher: Springer

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