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Environ Sci Technol. 2004 Nov 1;38(21):5750-6.

Colloid formation in Hanford sediments reacted with simulated tank waste.

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Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, Center for Multiphase Environmental Research, Washington State University, Pullman, Washington 99164-6420, USA.


Solutions of high pH, ionic strength, and aluminum concentration have leaked into the subsurface from underground waste storage tanks atthe Hanford Reservation in Washington State. Here, we test the hypothesis that these waste solutions alter and dissolve the native minerals present in the sediments and that colloidal (diameter < 2 microm) feldspathoids form. We reacted Hanford sediments with simulated solutions representative of Hanford waste tanks. The solutions consisted of 1.4 or 2.8 mol/kg NaOH, 0.125 or 0.25 mol/kg NaAlO4, and 3.7 mol/kg NaNO3 and were contacted with the sediments for a period of 25 or 40 days at 50 degrees C. The colloidal size fraction was separated from the sediments and characterized in terms of mineralogy, morphology, chemical composition, and electrophoretic mobility. Upon reaction with tank waste solutions, native minerals released Si and other elements into the solution phase. This Si precipitated with the Al present in the waste solutions to form secondary minerals, identified as the feldspathoids cancrinite and sodalite. The solution phase was modeled with the chemical equilibrium model GMIN for solution speciation and saturation indices with respect to sodalite and cancrinite. The amount of colloidal material in the sediments increased upon reaction with waste solutions. At the natural pH found in Hanford sediments (pH 8) the newly formed minerals are negatively charged, similar to the unreacted colloidal material present in the sediments. The formation of colloidal material in Hanford sediments upon reaction with tank waste solutions is an important aspect to consider in the characterization of Hanford tank leaks and may affect the fate of hazardous radionuclides present in the tank waste.

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