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J Contam Hydrol. 2013 Aug;151:155-75. doi: 10.1016/j.jconhyd.2013.05.009. Epub 2013 Jun 7.

Influence of acidic and alkaline waste solution properties on uranium migration in subsurface sediments.

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  • 1Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, P.O. Box 999, MSIN K3-61, Richland, WA 99354, USA. jim.szecsody@pnnl.gov


This study shows that acidic and alkaline wastes co-disposed with uranium into subsurface sediments have significant impact on changes in uranium retardation, concentration, and mass during downward migration. For uranium co-disposal with acidic wastes, significant rapid (i.e., hours) carbonate and slow (i.e., 100 s of hours) clay dissolution resulted, releasing significant sediment-associated uranium, but the extent of uranium release and mobility change was controlled by the acid mass added relative to the sediment proton adsorption capacity. Mineral dissolution in acidic solutions (pH2) resulted in a rapid (<10 h) increase in aqueous carbonate (with Ca(2+), Mg(2+)) and phosphate and a slow (100 s of hours) increase in silica, Al(3+), and K(+), likely from 2:1 clay dissolution. Infiltration of uranium with a strong acid resulted in significant shallow uranium mineral dissolution and deeper uranium precipitation (likely as phosphates and carbonates) with downward uranium migration of three times greater mass at a faster velocity relative to uranium infiltration in pH neutral groundwater. In contrast, mineral dissolution in an alkaline environment (pH13) resulted in a rapid (<10h) increase in carbonate, followed by a slow (10 s to 100 s of hours) increase in silica concentration, likely from montmorillonite, muscovite, and kaolinite dissolution. Infiltration of uranium with a strong base resulted in not only uranium-silicate precipitation (presumed Na-boltwoodite) but also desorption of natural uranium on the sediment due to the high ionic strength solution, or 60% greater mass with greater retardation compared with groundwater. Overall, these results show that acidic or alkaline co-contaminant disposal with uranium can result in complex depth- and time-dependent changes in uranium dissolution/precipitation reactions and uranium sorption, which alter the uranium migration mass, concentration, and velocity.

Copyright © 2013 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


Acidic waste; Alkaline waste; Subsurface contamination; Uranium; Uranium adsorption; Uranium dissolution/precipitation

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