skip to main content


Title: Laboratory column experiments and transport modeling to evaluate retardation of uranium in an aquifer downgradient of a uranium in-situ recovery site

The purpose of this study was to determine the attenuation potential and retardation of uranium in sediments taken from boreholes at the Smith-Ranch Highland in-situ recovery (ISR) site. Five column experiments with four different sediments were conducted to study the effects of variable mineralogy and alkalinity on uranium breakthrough. Uranium transport was modeled with PHREEQC using a generalized composite surface complexation model (GC SCM) with one, two, and, three generic surfaces, respectively. Reactive surface areas were approximated with PEST using BET derived surface areas to constrain fitting parameters. Uranium breakthrough was delayed by a factor of 1.68, 1.69 and 1.47 relative to the non-reactive tracer for three of the 5 experiments at an alkalinity of 540 mg/l. A sediment containing smectite and kaolinite retained uranium by a factor of 2.80 despite a lower measured BET surface area. Decreasing alkalinity to 360 mg/l from 540 mg/l increased retardation by a factor of 4.26. Model fits correlated well to overall BET surface area in the three columns where clay content was less than 1%. For the sediment with clay, models consistently understated uranium retardation when reactive surface sites were restricted by BET results. Calcite saturation was shown to be a controlling factormore » for uranium desorption as the pH of the system changes. A pH of 6 during a secondary background water flush remobilized previously sorbed uranium resulting in a secondary uranium peak at twice the influent concentrations. Furthermore, this study demonstrates the potential of GC SCM models to predict uranium transport in sediments with homogenous mineral composition, but highlights the need for further research to understand the role of sediment clay composition and calcite saturation in uranium transport.« less
; ; ORCiD logo ; ; ; ;
Publication Date:
Report Number(s):
Journal ID: ISSN 0883-2927
Grant/Contract Number:
Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Applied Geochemistry
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 80; Journal Issue: C; Journal ID: ISSN 0883-2927
Research Org:
Los Alamos National Lab. (LANL), Los Alamos, NM (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; USDOE
Country of Publication:
United States
58 GEOSCIENCES; Earth Sciences
OSTI Identifier: