skip to main content

SciTech ConnectSciTech Connect

Title: Novel Sensor for the In Situ Measurement of Uranium Fluxes

The goal of this project was to develop a sensor that incorporates the field-tested concepts of the passive flux meter to provide direct in situ measures of flux for uranium and groundwater in porous media. Measurable contaminant fluxes [J] are essentially the product of concentration [C] and groundwater flux or specific discharge [q ]. The sensor measures [J] and [q] by changes in contaminant and tracer amounts respectively on a sorbent. By using measurement rather than inference from static parameters, the sensor can directly advance conceptual and computational models for field scale simulations. The sensor was deployed in conjunction with DOE in obtaining field-scale quantification of subsurface processes affecting uranium transport (e.g., advection) and transformation (e.g., uranium attenuation) at the Rifle IFRC Site in Rifle, Colorado. Project results have expanded our current understanding of how field-scale spatial variations in fluxes of uranium, groundwater and salient electron donor/acceptors are coupled to spatial variations in measured microbial biomass/community composition, effective field-scale uranium mass balances, attenuation, and stability. The coupling between uranium, various nutrients and micro flora can be used to estimate field-scale rates of uranium attenuation and field-scale transitions in microbial communities. This research focuses on uranium (VI), but the sensor principlesmore » and design are applicable to field-scale fate and transport of other radionuclides. Laboratory studies focused on sorbent selection and calibration, along with sensor development and validation under controlled conditions. Field studies were conducted at the Rifle IFRC Site in Rifle, Colorado. These studies were closely coordinated with existing SBR (formerly ERSP) projects to complement data collection. Small field tests were conducted during the first two years that focused on evaluating field-scale deployment procedures and validating sensor performance under controlled field conditions. In the third and fourth year a suite of larger field studies were conducted. For these studies, the uranium flux sensor was used with uranium speciation measurements and molecular-biological tools to characterize microbial community and active biomass at synonymous wells distributed in a large grid. These field efforts quantified spatial changes in uranium flux and field-scale rates of uranium attenuation (ambient and stimulated), uranium stability, and quantitatively assessed how fluxes and effective reaction rates were coupled to spatial variations in microbial community and active biomass. Analyses of data from these field experiments were used to generate estimates of Monod kinetic parameters that are ‘effective’ in nature and optimal for modeling uranium fate and transport at the field-scale. This project provided the opportunity to develop the first sensor that provides direct measures of both uranium (VI) and groundwater flux. A multidisciplinary team was assembled to include two geochemists, a microbiologist, and two quantitative contaminant hydrologists. Now that the project is complete, the sensor can be deployed at DOE sites to evaluate field-scale uranium attenuation, source behavior, the efficacy of remediation, and off-site risk. Because the sensor requires no power, it can be deployed at remote sites for periods of days to months. The fundamental science derived from this project can be used to advance the development of predictive models for various transport and attenuation processes in aquifers. Proper development of these models is critical for long-term stewardship of contaminated sites in the context of predicting uranium source behavior, remediation performance, and off-site risk.« less
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
University of Florida
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Science (SC), Biological and Environmental Research (BER) (SC-23)
Country of Publication:
United States