U.S. Department of Energy


Date of this Version



Environ. Sci. Technol. 2001, 35, 3433-3441


137Cesium and other contaminants have leaked from single-shell storage tanks (SSTs) into coarse-textured, relatively unweathered unconsolidated sediments. Contaminated sediments were retrieved from beneath a leaky SST to investigate the distribution of adsorbed 137Cs+ across different sediment size fractions. All fractions contained mica (biotite, muscovite, vermiculatized biotite), quartz, and plagioclase along with smectite and kaolinite in the clay-size fraction. A phosphor-plate autoradiograph method was used to identify particular sediment particles responsible for retaining 137Cs+. The Cs-bearing particles were found to be individual mica flakes or agglomerated smectite, mica, quartz, and plagioclase. Of these, only the micaceous component was capable of sorbing Cs+ strongly. Sorbed 137Cs+ could not be significantly removed from sediments by leaching with dithionite citrate buffer or KOH, but a fraction of the sorbed 137Cs+ (5-22%) was desorbable with solutions containing an excess of Rb+. The small amount of 137Cs+ that might be mobilized by migrating fluids in the future would likely sorb to nearby micaceous clasts in downgradient sediments.