U.S. Department of Energy


Date of this Version



Environ. Sci. Technol. 2009, 43, 630–636


The distribution and speciation of U and Cu in contaminated vadose zone and aquifer sediments from the U.S. DOE Hanford site (300 Area) were determined using a combination of synchrotron-based micro-X-ray fluorescence (μXRF) imaging, micro-X-ray absorption near edge structure (μXANES) spectroscopy, and micro-X-ray diffraction (μXRD) techniques combined with bulk U LIII-edge X-ray absorption fine structure (XAFS) spectroscopy. Samples were collected from within the inactive North Process Pond (NPP2) at 8 ft (2.4 m, NPP2-8) depth and 12 ft (3.7 m, NPP2-12) depth in the vadose zone, and fines were isolated from turbid groundwater just below the water Table (12-14 ft, ∼4 m, NPP2-GW). μXRF imaging, μXRD, and μXANES spectroscopy revealed two major U occurrences within the vadose and groundwater zones: (1) low to moderate concentrations of U(VI) associated with finetextured grain coatings that were consistently found to contain clinochlore (referred to here as chlorite) observed in all three samples, and (2) U(VI)-Cu(II) hotspots consisting of micrometer-sized particles associated with surface coatings on grains of muscovite and chlorite observed in samples NPP2- 8′ and NPP2-GW. In the aquifer fines (NPP2-GW), these particles were identified as cuprosklodowskite (cps: Cu[(UO2)(SiO2OH)]2 ·6H2O) and metatorbernite (mtb: Cu(UO2)2(PO4)2 ·8H2O). In contrast, the U-Cu-containing particles in the vadose zone were X-ray amorphous. Analyses of U LIII-edge XAFS spectra by linear-combination fitting indicated that U speciation consisted of (1) ∼75% uranyl sorbed to chlorite and ∼25% mtb-like X-ray amorphous U-Cuphosphates (8 ft depth), (2) nearly 100% sorbed uranyl (12 ft depth), and (3) ∼70% uranyl sorbed to chlorite and ∼30% cps/mtb (groundwater zone). These findings suggest that dissolution of U(VI)-Cu(II)-bearing solids as well as desorption of U(VI), mainly from phyllosilicates, are important persistent sources of U(VI) to the associated uranium groundwater plume in Hanford Area 300.