U.S. Department of Energy


Date of this Version



Environ. Sci. Technol. 2008, 42, 1565–1571


A column study on U(VI)-contaminated vadose zone sediments from the Hanford Site, WA, was performed to investigate U(VI) release kinetics with water advection and variable geochemical conditions. The sediments were collected from an area adjacent to and below tank BX-102 that was contaminated as a result of a radioactive tank waste overfill event. The primary reservoir for U(VI) in the sediments are micro-meter size precipitates composed of nanocrystallite aggregates of a Na- U-Silicate phase, most likely Na-boltwoodite, that nucleated and grew within microfractures of the plagioclase component of sand-sized granitic clasts. Two sediment samples, with different U(VI) concentrations and intra-particle mass transfer properties, were leached with advective flows of three different solutions. The influent solutions were all calcite-saturated and in equilibrium with atmospheric CO2. One solution was prepared from DI water, the second was a synthetic groundwater (SGW) with elevated Na that mimicked groundwater at the Hanford site, and the third was the same SGW but with both elevated Na and Si. The latter two solutions were employed, in part, to test the effect of saturation state on U(VI) release. For both sediments, and all three electrolytes, there was an initial rapid release of U(VI) to the advecting solution followed by slower near steady-state release. U(VI)aq concentrations increased during subsequent stop-flow events. The electrolytes with elevated Na and Si depressed U(VI)aq concentrations in effluent solutions. Effluent U(VI)aq concentrations for both sediments and all three electrolytes were simulated reasonably well by a three domain model (the advecting fluid, fractures, and matrix) that coupled U(VI) dissolution, intraparticle U(VI)aq diffusion, and interparticle advection, where diffusion and dissolution properties were parameterized in a previous batch study.