The adsorption of uranyl on standard Georgia kaolinites (KGa-1 and KGa-1B) was studied as a function of pH (3-10), total U (1 and 10 ??mol/l), and mass loading of clay (4 and 40 g/l). The uptake of uranyl in air-equilibrated systems increased with pH and reached a maximum in the near-neutral pH range. At higher pH values, the sorption decreased due to the presence of aqueous uranyl carbonate complexes. One kaolinite sample was examined after the uranyl uptake experiments by transmission electron microscopy (TEM), using energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDS) to determine the U content. It was found that uranium was preferentially adsorbed by Ti-rich impurity phases (predominantly anatase), which are present in the kaolinite samples. Uranyl sorption on the Georgia kaolinites was simulated with U sorption reactions on both titanol and aluminol sites, using a simple non-electrostatic surface complexation model (SCM). The relative amounts of U-binding >TiOH and >AlOH sites were estimated from the TEM/EDS results. A ternary uranyl carbonate complex on the titanol site improved the fit to the experimental data in the higher pH range. The final model contained only three optimised log K values, and was able to simulate adsorption data across a wide range of experimental conditions. The >TiOH (anatase) sites appear to play an important role in retaining U at low uranyl concentrations. As kaolinite often contains trace TiO2, its presence may need to be taken into account when modelling the results of sorption experiments with radionuclides or trace metals on kaolinite. ?? 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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Surface complexation model of uranyl sorption on Georgia kaolinite