Application of holocene geological data for siting coastal nuclear power plants: An example from Puerto Rico

Application Des Données Géologiques De L’holocene Au Choix Du Site De Centrales Nucléaires Cotieres: Un exemple De Porto Rico

Summary

Geological and geophysical investigations for a nuclear power plant (NORCO) on the north-central coast of Puerto Rico indicate that the proposed site is structurally suitable and free of late Quaternary faults. However, conflicting interpretation of erosional geomorphic features, primarily nips, terraces and caves cut in coastal eolianities and jointed Tertiary carbonates a few to 10 m above sea level, suggest the possibility of non-fault related epeirogeny as young as Holocene in age. Seven peat samples cored from Ciénaga Tiburones, a coastal marsh within the site area, and three wood samples from near-coast fluvial sediments at Arecibo and San Juan, yielded radiocarbon dates ranging in age from about 1,200 to 8,700 years BP. The age and depth associations of these dated sediments fall within or slightly below an envelope defining the maximum oscillatory points of 15 world-wide, Holocene sea level curves. The relationship of the Puerto Rico and world-wide curves suggests no measurable epeirogenic uplift of the north-central coast for at least the last 10,000 years. Coastal caves and terraces above present sea level thus owe their origin to pre-Holocene high stands, or to cave collapse, storm surge, and other modern processes capable of producing erosional features above present tidal range. The analysis of Holocene geological data for north-central Puerto Rico may be a useful technique applicable for siting coastal nuclear power plants elsewhere in the world.

Résumé

Les études géologiques et géophysiques effectuées dans le centre de la côte nord de l’íle de Porto-Rico, en vue de la construction d’une centrale nucléaire montrent que le site proposé a une structure convenable et qu’il n’est pas affecté par des failles quaternaires récentes. Cependant, une interprétation discutable de caractères morphologiques dus à l’érosion, principalement des étranglements, des terrasses et des cavernes, découpées dans des formations éoliennes côtières et dans des carbonates tertiaires fissurés, entre quelques mètres et dix mètres au-dessus du niveau de la mer, suggère la possibilité d’une épéirogénie sans faille aussi récente que l’Holocene. Sept échantillons de tourbe, carottés à Ciénaga Tiburones, un marais côtier situé dans le secteur étudié, et trois échantillons de bois provenant de sédiments fluviatiles proches de la côte, à Arecibo et à San Juan, ont donné des ãges au carbone 14 compris entre 1200 et 8700 ans BP environ. Pour ces sédiments datés, les points représentatifs de l’âge en fonction de la profondeur se situent dans une enveloppe définie par les points maximaux des courbes représentant les oscillations du niveau de la mer à l’Holocène en 15 sites répartis dans le monde entier, ou légèrement au-dessous de cette enveloppe. Les relations entre les courbes de Porto Rico et celles d’autres points du monde suggèrent qu’il n’y a pas eu de soulèvement épéirogénique mesurable dans le centre de la côte nord depuis au moins 10 000 ans. Aussi les cavernes et terrasses côtières au-dessus du niveau actuel de la mer doivent elles s’expliquer par des niveaux élevés atteints par la mer avant l’Holocène ou par des effondrements de cavernes, des vagues de tempête ou d’autres phénomènes récents pouvant produire des figures d’érosion au-dessus du niveau actuel des marées. L’analyse des données géologiques concernant l’Holocène du centre de la côte nord de Porto Rico peut constituer une méthode pratique applicable au choix du site d’une centrale nucléaire côtière en d’autres points du monde.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  1. Atomic Energy Commission (1973) : Seismic and geologic siting criteria for nuclear power plants: Federal Register, Part 100 (Reactor Site Criteria), Appendix A, p. 238A–238E.

  2. BLOOM A.L. (1971): Glacial-eustatic and isostatic controls of sea levels since the last glaciation:in Turkeian, K.K. (ed.), The late Cenozoic glacial ages: Yale Univ. Press (New Haven), p. 355–379.

    Google Scholar 

  3. BRIGGS R.P. (1964): Provisional geological map of Puerto Rico and adjacent islands: U.S. Geological Survey Map I-392, scale 1:240,000.

  4. BRIGGS R.P. (1966): The blanket sands of northern Puerto Rico: Transactions, Third Caribbean Geological Conf. (1962), Jamaica, p. 60–69.

  5. CAPACETE J.L. (1968): Soil deposits of the San Juan Bay area: Academia de Artes y Ciencias de Puerto Rico: Tomo IV, No. 2, p. 277–286.

  6. COX D.P. — BRIGGS R.P. (1973): Metallogenic map of Puerto Rico: U.S. Geological Survey Map I-721, scale 1:240,000.

  7. CURRAY J.R. — SHEPARD F.P. (1972): Some major problems of Holocene sea levels: Abstracts, American Quaternary Assoc., 2nd National Conf. (Miami), p. 16–18.

  8. CURRAY J.R. — SHEPARD F.P. — VEEH H.H. (1970): Late Quaternary sealevel studies in Micronesia: CARMARSEL Expedition: Geological Society America Bulletin, vol. 81, p. 1865–1880.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. DIAZ J.R. (1973): Chemical quality of water in Caño Tiburones. Puerto Rico: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report, Map series no. 2, (San Juan), 2 plates.

  10. DONNELLY T.W. (1965): Sea bottom morphology suggestive of post-Pleistocene tectonic activity of the eastern greater Antilles: Geological Society American Bulletin, vol. 76. p. 1291–1294.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. FAIRBRIDGE R.W. (1961): Eustatic changes in sea level:in Ahrens, L.H., Press, F., Rankama, K., and Runcorn, S.K. (eds.), Physics and Chemistry of the Earth: Pergamon Press (London), vol. 4, p. 99–185.

    Google Scholar 

  12. FIELDS F.K. — JORDAN D.G. (1972): Storm-swash along the north coast of Puerto Rico: U.S. Geological Survey Hydrologic Investigation Atlas HA-430 (San Juan).

    Google Scholar 

  13. HUBBARD B. (1923): The geology of the Lares District, Porto Rico: New York Academy of Science, Scientific Survey of Porto Rico and the Virgin Islands, vol. 2, part 1, p. 1–116.

    Google Scholar 

  14. KAYE C.A. (1959): Shoreline features and Quaternary shoreline changes, Puerto Rico: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 317-B, p. 49–140.

  15. LOBECK A.K. (1922): The physiography of Porto Rico: New York Academy of Science, Scientific Survey of Porto Rico and the Virgin Islands, vol. 1, part 4, p. 301–379.

    Google Scholar 

  16. MOLNAR P. — SYKES L.R. (1969): Tectonics of the Caribbean and middle America regions from focal mechanisms and seismicity: Geological Society America Bulletin, vol. 80, p. 1639–1684.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. MONROE W.H. (1960): Sinkholes and towers in the karst area of north-central Puerto Rico: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 400-B, p. B356–B360.

  18. MONROE W.H. (1968): High-level Quaternary beach desposits in northwestern Puerto Rico: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 600-C, p. C140–C143.

  19. Puerto Rico Water Resources Authority (1974): Preliminary Safety Analysis Report, North Coast Nuclear Plant No. 1: U.S. Atomic Energy Commission Docket No. 50–376, vol. II, 338 p.

  20. SEIDERS V.M. — BRIGGS R.P. — GLOVER L. (1972): Geology of Isla Desecheo, Puerto Rico with notes on the Great Southern Fault Zone and Quaternary stillstands of the sea: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 739, 22 p.

  21. WALCOTT R.I. (1972): Past sea levels, eustacy and deformation: Quaternary Research, vol. 2, p. 1–14.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Western Geophysical Campany and Fugro, Inc., (1973): Geological-Geophysical reconnaissance of Puerto Rico for siting of nuclear power plants: Puerto Rico Water Resources Authority (San Juan), 63 p.

    Google Scholar 

  23. WILLIAMS R.S. (1965): Geomorphology of a portion of the northern coastal plain of Puerto Rico: Pennsylvania State University (University Park), unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, 191 p.

    Google Scholar 

  24. ZAPP A.D. — BERGQUIST H.R. — THOMAS C.R. (1948): Tertiary geology of the coastal plains of Puerto Rico: U.S. Geological Survey Oil and Gas Investigation, Preliminary Map 85, scale 1:32,000.

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Shlemon, R.J., Capacete, J.L. Application of holocene geological data for siting coastal nuclear power plants: An example from Puerto Rico. Bulletin of the International Association of Engineering Geology 13, 107–111 (1976). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02634769

Download citation

Keywords

  • Holocene
  • Nuclear Power Plant
  • Coastal Marsh
  • Geological Survey Professional Paper
  • Insular Shelf