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Title: Uranium and strontium fate in waste-weathered sediments: Scaling of molecular processes to predict reactive transport

Objectives of the project: 1. Determine the process coupling that occurs between mineral transformation and contaminant (U and Sr) speciation in acid-uranium waste weathered Hanford sediments. 2. Establish linkages between molecular-scale contaminant speciation and meso-scale contaminant lability, release and reactive transport. 3. Make conjunctive use of molecular- to bench-scale data to constrain the development of a mechanistic, reactive transport model that includes coupling of contaminant sorption-desorption and mineral transformation reactions. Hypotheses tested: - Uranium and strontium speciation in legacy sediments from the U-8 and U-12 Crib sites can be reproduced in bench-scale weathering experiments conducted on unimpacted Hanford sediments from the same formations. - Reactive transport modeling of future uranium and strontium releases from the vadose zone of acid-waste weathered sediments can be effectively constrained by combining molecular-scale information on contaminant bonding environment with grain-scale information on contaminant phase partitioning, and meso-scale kinetic data on contaminant release from the waste-weathered porous media. - Although field contamination and laboratory experiments differ in their diagenetic time scales (decades for field vs. months to years for lab), sediment dissolution, neophase nucleation, and crystal growth reactions that occur during the initial disequilibrium induced by waste-sediment interaction leave a strong imprint that persists over subsequentmore » longer-term equilibration time scales and, therefore, give rise to long-term memory effects. Enabling capabilities developed: Our team developed an iterative measure-model approach that is broadly applicable to elucidate the mechanistic underpinnings of reactive contaminant transport in geomedia subject to active weathering. Experimental design: Hypotheses were tested by comparing (with a similar set of techniques) the geochemical transformations and transport behaviors that occured in bench-scale studies of waste-sediment interaction with parallel model systems studies of homogeneous nucleation and neo-phase dissolution. Initial plans were to compare results with core sample extractions from the acid uranium waste impacted U-8 and U-12 Cribs at Hanford (see original proposal and letter of collaboration from J. Zachara). However, this part of the project was impossible because funding for core extractions were eliminated from the DoE budget. Three distinct crib waste aqueous simulants (whose composition is based on the most up-to-date information from field site investigations) were reacted with Hanford sediments in batch and column systems. Coupling of contaminant uptake to mineral weathering was monitored using a suite of methods both during waste-sediment interaction, and after, when waste-weathered sediments were subjected to infusion with circumneutral background pore water solutions. Our research was designed to adapt as needed to maintain a strong dialogue between laboratory and modeling investigations so that model development was increasingly constrained by emergent data and understanding. Potential impact of the project to DOE: Better prediction of contaminant uranium transport was achieved by employing multi-faceted lines of inquiry to build a strong bridge between molecular- and field-scale information. By focusing multiple lines and scales of observation on a common experimental design, our collaborative team revealed non-linear and emergent behavior in contaminated weathering systems. A goal of the current project was to expand our modeling capabilities, originally focused on hyperalkaline legacy waste streams, to include acidic weathering reactions that, as described above, were expected to result in profoundly different products. We were able to achieve this goal, and showed that these products nonetheless undergo analogous silicate and non-silicate transformation, ripening and aging processes. Our prediction that these weathering reactions would vary with waste stimulant chemistry resulted in data that was incorporated directly into a reactive transport model structure.« less
 [1] ;  [2] ;  [3] ;  [4] ;  [5] ;  [3] ;  [6] ;  [7] ;  [7] ;  [3] ;  [8] ;  [5]
  1. Univ. of Arizona, Tucson, AZ (United States)
  2. Pacific Northwest National Lab. (PNNL), Richland, WA (United States); Pennsylvania State Univ., University Park, PA (United States)
  3. Pennsylvania State Univ., University Park, PA (United States)
  4. Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. (LBNL), Berkeley, CA (United States)
  5. Pacific Northwest National Lab. (PNNL), Richland, WA (United States)
  6. Univ. of Arizona, Tucson, AZ (United States); Univ. of Vermont, Burlington, VT (United States)
  7. Univ. of California, Merced, CA (United States)
  8. Univ. of Arizona, Tucson, AZ (United States); Univ. of Notre Dame, IN (United States)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
Final Report - DOE-UA0006781
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
Univ. of Arizona, Tucson, AZ (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Science (SC), Biological and Environmental Research (BER) (SC-23)
Country of Publication:
United States
54 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES; 58 GEOSCIENCES; uranium; strontium; high-level-radioactive-waste; Hanford Site; geochemical weathering