U.S. Department of Energy


Date of this Version



Chemical Geology 264 (2009) 127–138; doi:10.1016/j.chemgeo.2009.02.018


99Tc is formed mostly during nuclear reactions and is released into the environment during weapons testing and inadvertent waste disposal. The long half-life, high environmental mobility (as Tc(VII)O4) and its possible uptake into the food chain cause 99Tc to be a significant environmental contaminant. In this study, we evaluated the role of Fe(II) in biologically reduced clay mineral, nontronite (NAu-2), in reducing Tc(VII) O4 to poorly soluble Tc(IV) species as a function of pH and Fe(II) concentration. The rate of Tc(VII) reduction by Fe(II) in NAu-2 was higher at neutral pH (pH 7.0) than at acidic and basic pHs when Fe(II) concentration was low (<1 mmol/g). The effect of pH, however, was insignificant at higher Fe(II) concentrations. The reduction of Tc(VII) by Fe(II) associated with NAu-2 was also studied in the presence of common subsurface oxidants including iron and manganese oxides, nitrate, and oxygen, to evaluate the effect of these oxidants on the enhancement and inhibition of Tc(VII) reduction, and reoxidation of Tc(IV). Addition of iron oxides (goethite and hematite) to the Tc(VII)-NAu-2 system, where Tc(VII) reduction was ongoing, enhanced reduction of Tc(VII), apparently as a result of re-distribution of reactive Fe(II) from NAu-2 to more reactive goethite/hematite surfaces. Addition of manganese oxides stopped further Tc(VII) reduction, and in case of K+-birnessite, it reoxidized previously reduced Tc(IV). Nitrate neither enhanced reduction of Tc(VII) nor promoted reoxidation of Tc(IV). Approximately 11% of Tc(IV) was oxidized by oxygen. The rate and extent of Tc(IV) reoxidation was found to strongly depend on the nature of the oxidants and concentration of Fe (II). When the same oxidants were added to aged Tc reduction products (mainly NAu-2 and TcO2•nH2O), the extent of Tc(IV) reoxidation decreased significantly relative to fresh Tc(IV) products. Increasing NAu-2 concentration also resulted in the decreased extent of Tc(IV) reoxidation. The results were attributed to the effect of NAu-2 aggregation that effectively retained Tc(IV) in the solid and decreased its vulnerability to reoxidation. Overall, our results implied that bioreduced clay minerals could play an important role in reducing Tc(VII) and in maintaining the long-term stability of reduced Tc(IV).