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Bedrock geologic map of the Yucca Mountain area, Nye County, Nevada

September 1, 1998

Yucca Mountain, Nye County, Nevada, has been identified as a potential site for underground storage of high-level radioactive nuclear waste. Detailed bedrock geologic maps form an integral part of the site characterization program by providing the fundamental framework for research into the geologic hazards and hydrologic behavior of the mountain. This bedrock geologic map provides the geologic framework and structural setting for the area in and adjacent to the site of the potential repository.

The study area comprises the northern and central parts of Yucca Mountain, located on the southern flank of the Timber Mountain-Oasis Valley caldera complex, which was the source for many of the volcanic units in the area. The Timber Mountain-Oasis Valley caldera complex is part of the Miocene southwestern Nevada volcanic field, which is within the Walker Lane belt. This tectonic belt is a northwest-striking megastructure lying between the more active Inyo-Mono and Basin-and-Range subsections of the southwestern Great Basin.

Excluding Quaternary surficial deposits, the map area is underlain by Miocene volcanic rocks, principally ash-flow tuffs with lesser amounts of lava flows. These volcanic units include the Crater Flat Group, the Calico Hills Formation, the Paintbrush Group, and the Timber Mountain Group, as well as minor basaltic dikes. The tuffs and lava flows are predominantly rhyolite with lesser amounts of latite and range in age from 13.4 to 11.6 Ma. The 10-Ma basaltic dikes intruded along a few fault traces in the north-central part of the study area.

Fault types in the area can be classified as block bounding, relay structures, strike slip, and intrablock. The block-bounding faults separate the 1- to 4-km-wide, east-dipping structural blocks and exhibit hundreds of meters of displacement. The relay structures are northwest-striking normal fault zones that kinematically link the block-bounding faults. The strike-slip faults are steep, northwest-striking dextral faults located in the northern part of Yucca Mountain. The intrablock faults are modest faults of limited offset (tens of meters) and trace length (less than 7 km) that accommodated intrablock deformation.

The concept of structural domains provides a useful tool in delineating and describing variations in structural style. Domains are defined across the study area on the basis of the relative amount of internal faulting, style of deformation, and stratal dips. In general, there is a systematic north to south increase in extensional deformation as recorded in the amount of offset along the block-bounding faults as well as an increase in the intrablock faulting.

The rocks in the map area had a protracted history of Tertiary extension. Rocks of the Paintbrush Group cover much of the area and obscure evidence for older tectonism. An earlier history of Tertiary extension can be inferred, however, because the Timber Mountain-Oasis Valley caldera complex lies within and cuts an older north-trending rift (the Kawich-Greenwater rift}. Evidence for deformation during eruption of the Paintbrush Group is locally present as growth structures. Post-Paintbrush Group, pre-Timber Mountain Group extension occurred along the block-bounding faults. The basal contact of the 11.6-Ma Rainier Mesa Tuff of the Timber Mountain Group provides a key time horizon throughout the area. Other workers have shown that west of the study area in northern Crater Flat the basal angular unconformity is as much as 20° between the Rainier Mesa and underlying Paintbrush Group rocks. In the westernmost part of the study area the unconformity is smaller (less than 10°), whereas in the central and eastern parts of the map area the contact is essentially conformable. In the central part of the map the Rainier Mesa Tuff laps over fault splays within the Solitario Canyon fault zone. However, displacement did occur on the block-bounding faults after deposition of the Rainier Mesa Tuff inasmuch as it is locally caught up in the hanging-wall deformation of the block-bounding faults. Therefore, the regional Tertiary to Recent extension was protracted, occurring prior to and after the eruption of the tuffs exposed at Yucca Mountain.

Publication Year 1998
Title Bedrock geologic map of the Yucca Mountain area, Nye County, Nevada
DOI 10.3133/i2627
Authors Warren C. Day, Robert P. Dickerson, Christopher J. Potter, Donald S. Sweetkind, Carma A. San Juan, Ronald M. Drake, Christopher J. Fridrich
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title IMAP
Series Number 2627
Index ID i2627
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Central Mineral and Environmental Resources Science Center