Subsurface mass transport affects the radioxenon signatures that are used to identify clandestine nuclear tests



[1] The ratios of noble gas radioisotopes can provide critical information with which to verify that a belowground nuclear test has taken place. The relative abundance of anthropogenic isotopes is typically assumed to rely solely on their fission yield and decay rate. The xenon signature of a nuclear test is then bounded by the signal from directly produced fission xenon, and by the signal that would come from the addition of xenon from iodine precursors. Here we show that this signal range is too narrowly defined. Transport simulations were done to span the range of geological conditions within the Nevada Test Site. The simulations assume a 1 kt test and the barometric history following the nuclear test at Pahute Mesa in March 1992. Predicted xenon ratios fall outside of the typically assumed range 20% of the time and situations can arise where the ground level signal comes entirely from the decay of iodine precursors.