This report concerns investigations designed to identify the important physical and chemical parameters influencing the rate of release of uranium from glass shards of rhyolitic air-fall ash. Oxidizing, silica undersaturated, alkaline solutions are eluted through a column of rhyolitic glass shards at a carefully controlled temperature, pressure, and flow rate. The solutions are monitored for the concentration of uranium and selected additional elements (Si, K, Li, F), and the glass is recovered and examined for physical and/or chemical evidence of attack. The flushing mode is designed to mimic leaching of glass shards by intermittent, near-surface waters with which the glass is not in equilibrium.
Reported rates are applicable only to the experimental conditions (120?C, 7,000 psi), but it is assumed that the reaction mechanisms and the relative importance of rate-influencing parameters remain unchanged, at reduced temperature and pressure. Results of the above experiment indicate that silica and uranium are released from glass shards at comparable rates, while lithium and potassium are released faster and fluorine slower than either Si or U. Rates of release of silica and uranium correlate positively with the surface area of the shards. Rhyolitic shards release uranium at faster rates than rhyodacitic shards of comparable surface area. Changes in the shards resulting from experimental treatment and observed in the original glass separates from an Oligocene ash (compared to a Pleistocene ash) include; surface pitting, increased surface area, devitrification rinds (<1l micron wide) and reduced lithium contents. Future investigations will study the effect of temperature, pressure, solution composition, and flow rate on the relative mobility of U, Si, Li, F, and K.