U.S. Department of Energy


Date of this Version



Environ. Sci. Technol. 2005, 39, 2651-2659


Time-resolved laser-induced fluorescence spectroscopy (TRLFS) and imaging spectromicroscopy (TRLFISM) were used to examine the chemical speciation of uranyl in contaminated subsurface sediments from the U.S. Department of Energy (U.S. DOE) Hanford Site, Washington. Spectroscopic measurements for contaminant U(VI) were compared to those from a natural, uranyl-bearing calcite (NUC) that had been found via X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS) to include uranyl in the same coordination environment as calcium. Spectral deconvolution of TRLFS measurements on the NUC revealed the unexpected presence of two distinct chemical environments consistent with published spectra of U(VI)-substituted synthetic calcite and aragonite. Apparently, some U(VI) substitution sites in calcite distorted to exhibit a local, more energetically favorable aragonite structure. TRLFS measurements of the Hanford sediments NP4-1 and NP1-6 were similar to the NUC in terms of peak positions and intensity, despite a small CaCO3 content (1.0 to 3.2 mass %). Spectral deconvolution of the sediments revealed the presence of U(VI) in calcite and aragonite structural environments. A third, unidentified U(VI) species was also present in the NP1-6 sediment. TRLFISM measurements at multiple locations in the different sediments displayed only minor variation, indicating a uniform speciation pattern. Collectively, the measurements implied that waste U(VI), long-resident beneath the sampled disposal pond (32 y), had coprecipitated within carbonates. These findings have major implications for the solubility and fate of contaminant U(VI).