skip to main content

Title: Effect of Phosphate on U(VI) Sorption to Montmorillonite: Ternary Complexation and Precipitation Barriers

Phosphate addition is a potential treatment method to lower the solubility of U(VI) in soil and groundwater systems by causing U(VI) phosphate precipitation as well as enhancing adsorption. Previous work has shown that iron oxide surfaces may facilitate the nucleation of U(VI) phosphate minerals and, that under weakly acidic conditions, phosphate also enhances U(VI) adsorption to such phases. Like iron oxides, clays are important reactive phases in the subsurface but little is known about the interaction of U(VI) and phosphate with these minerals. The effect of aqueous phosphate on U(VI) binding to Wyoming montmorillonite (SWy-2) in air-equilibrated systems was investigated. Equilibrium U(VI) uptake to montmorillonite was determined at pH 4, 6 and 8 at discrete initial phosphate concentrations between 0 and 100 μM. The observed behavior of U(VI) indicates a transition from adsorption to precipitation with increasing total uranium and phosphate concentrations at all pH values. At the highest phosphate concentration examined at each pH value, a barrier to U(VI) phosphate nucleation is observed. At lower concentrations, phosphate has no effect on macroscopic U(VI) adsorption. To assess the mechanisms of U(VI)-phosphate interactions on smectite surfaces, U(VI) speciation was investigated under selected conditions using laser-induced fluorescence spectroscopy (LIFS) and extended X-raymore » absorption fine-structure (EXAFS) spectroscopy. Samples above the precipitation threshold display EXAFS and LIFS spectral signatures consistent with the autunite family of U(VI) phosphate minerals. However, at lower U(VI) concentrations, changes in LIFS spectra upon phosphate addition suggest that U(VI)-phosphate ternary surface complexes form on the montmorillonite surface at pH 4 and 6 despite the lack of a macroscopic effect on adsorption. The speciation of solid-associated U(VI) below the precipitation threshold at pH 8 is dominated by U(VI)-carbonate surface complexes. This work reveals that ternary complexation may occur without a macroscopic signature, which is attributed to phosphate not appreciably binding to smectite in the absence of U(VI), with U(VI) surface complexes serving as the sole reactive surface sites for phosphate. This study shows that phosphate does not enhance U(VI) adsorption to smectite clay minerals, unlike oxide phases, and that a barrier to homogeneous nucleation of U(VI) phosphates was not affected by the presence of the smectite surface« less
; ; ; ; ; ;
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
Journal ID: ISSN 0016-7037; 47951; KP1702030
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Resource Relation:
Journal Name: Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta; Journal Volume: 175
The Geochemical Society; The Meteoritical Society
Research Org:
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), Richland, WA (US), Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL)
Sponsoring Org:
Country of Publication:
United States
Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory