Rates of U(VI) release from individual dry-sieved size fractions of a field-aggregated, field-contaminated composite sediment from the seasonally saturated lower vadose zone of the Hanford 300-Area were examined in flow-through reactors to maintain quasi-constant chemical conditions. The principal source of variability in equilibrium U(VI) adsorption properties of the various size fractions was the impact of variable chemistry on adsorption. This source of variability was represented using surface complexation models (SCMs) with different stoichiometric coefficients with respect to hydrogen ion and carbonate concentrations for the different size fractions. A reactive transport model incorporating equilibrium expressions for cation exchange and calcite dissolution, along with rate expressions for aerobic respiration and silica dissolution, described the temporal evolution of solute concentrations observed during the flow-through reactor experiments. Kinetic U(VI) desorption was well described using a multirate SCM with an assumed lognormal distribution for the mass-transfer rate coefficients. The estimated mean and standard deviation of the rate coefficients were the same for all <2 mm size fractions but differed for the 2–8 mm size fraction. Micropore volumes, assessed using t-plots to analyze N2 desorption data, were also the same for all dry-sieved <2 mm size fractions, indicating a link between micropore volumes and mass-transfer rate properties. Pore volumes for dry-sieved size fractions exceeded values for the corresponding wet-sieved fractions. We hypothesize that repeated field wetting and drying cycles lead to the formation of aggregates and/or coatings containing (micro)pore networks which provided an additional mass-transfer resistance over that associated with individual particles. The 2–8 mm fraction exhibited a larger average and standard deviation in the distribution of mass-transfer rate coefficients, possibly caused by the abundance of microporous basaltic rock fragments.
Additional publication details
Characterizing particle-scale equilibrium adsorption and kinetics of uranium(VI) desorption from U-contaminated sediments