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Geochemical and C, O, Sr, and U-series isotopic evidence for the meteoric origin of calcrete at Solitario Wash, Crater Flat, Nevada, USA

January 1, 2005

Calcite-rich soils (calcrete) in alluvium and colluvium at Solitario Wash, Crater Flat, Nevada, USA, contain pedogenic calcite and opaline silica similar to soils present elsewhere in the semi-arid southwestern United States. Nevertheless, a ground-water discharge origin for the Solitario Wash soil deposits was proposed in a series of publications proposing elevation-dependent variations of carbon and oxygen isotopes in calcrete samples. Discharge of ground water in the past would raise the possibility of future flooding in the unsaturated zone at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, site of a proposed high-level nuclear waste repository. New geochemical and carbon, oxygen, strontium, and uranium-series isotopic data disprove the presence of systematic elevation-isotopic composition relations, which are the main justification given for a proposed ground-water discharge origin of the calcrete deposits at Solitario Wash. Values of ??13C (-4.1 to -7.8 per mil [???]), ??18O (23.8-17.2???), 87Sr/ 86Sr (0.71270-0.71146), and initial 234U/238U activity ratios of about 1.6 in the new calcrete samples are within ranges previously observed in pedogenic carbonate deposits at Yucca Mountain and are incompatible with a ground-water origin for the calcrete. Variations in carbon and oxygen isotopes in Solitario Wash calcrete likely are caused by pedogenic deposition from meteoric water under varying Quaternary climatic conditions over hundreds of thousands of years. ?? Springer-Verlag 2005.