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Sci Total Environ. 2002 Apr 22;289(1-3):83-95.

Prediction of the effects of soil-based countermeasures on soil solution chemistry of soils contaminated with radiocesium using the hydrogeochemical code PHREEQC.

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  • 1Dept. of Physics / FB 1, University of Bremen, Germany.


For agriculturally used areas, which are contaminated by the debris from a nuclear accident, the use of chemical amendmends (e.g. potassium chloride and lime) is among the most common soil-based countermeasures. These countermeasures are intended to reduce the plant uptake of radionuclides (mainly 137Cs and 90Sr) by competitive inhibition by chemically similar ions. So far, the impacts of countermeasures on soil solution composition - and thus, their effectiveness - have almost exclusively been established experimentally, since they depend on mineral composition and chemical characteristics of the soil affected. In this study, which focuses on caesium contamination, the well-established code PHREEQC was used as a geochemical model to calculate the changes in the ionic compositions of soil solutions, which result from the application of potassium or ammonium in batch equilibrium experiments. The simple ion exchange model used by PHREEQC was improved by taking into account selective sorption of Cs+, NH4+ and K+ by clay minerals. Calculations were performed with three different initial soil solution compositions, corresponding to particular soil types (loam, sand, peat). For loamy and sandy soils, our calculational results agree well with experimental data reported by Nisbet (Effectiveness of soil-based countermeasures six months and one year after contamination of five diverse soil types with caesium-134 and strontium-90. Contract Report NRPB-M546, National Radiation Protection Board, Chilton, 1995.). For peat, discrepancies were found indicating that for organic soils a reliable set of exchange constants of the relevant cations still has to be determined experimentally. For cesium, however, these discrepancies almost disappeared if selective sites were assumed to be inaccessible. Additionally, results of sensitivity analyses are presented by which the influence of the main soil parameters on Cs+ concentrations in solution after soil treatment has been systematically studied. It is shown that calculating the impacts of soil-based chemical countermeasures on soil solution chemistry using geochemical codes such as PHREEQC offers an attractive alternative to establishing these impacts by often time-consuming and site-specific experiments.

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