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Uranium Deposition in a Weathered Fractured Saprolite/Shale

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journal contribution
posted on 15.11.2007, 00:00 by Debra H. Phillips, David B. Watson, Yul Roh
Chemical analysis and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) microanalysis were carried out on cores of contaminated geological material collected around four closed waste disposal ponds to examine the extent of nitric acid extractable U (UNA) association with P, S, and extractable Fe, Al, and Mn oxides within deeply weathered fractured shale. The solid phase in many regimes on the site has been exposed to highly buffered acidic (<3.5) groundwater and has been aggressively weathered. Higher correlations occur between UNA and total P and S (r2 = 0.76, 0.69, respectively), citrate bicarbonate dithionite extractable Fe (Fed) and Al (Ald) (r2=0.87, 0.80, respectively), and acid oxalate extractable or amorphous/poorly crystalline Fe (Feo) (r2=0.63) in core material from a field plot known as Area 1 compared to core material from another field plot known as Area 3. In Area 3 core material, linear regression analysis of UNA and total P and S, and Fed, Ald and Feo gave r2 values of 0.67, 0.4, 0.06, 0.24, and 0.45, respectively. These results showed similar relationships with SEM−wavelength dispersive spectroscopy (WDS) mapping of this material. It is noteworthy that Area 1 geological material has not been as aggressively weathered as Area 3 material due to its physical location from the waste source. In all of the cores, most of the Fe and Al oxides were crystalline, while most of the Mn oxides were amorphous. The greater adsorption and/or fixation of anion complexes of P−U (uranium phosphate) and S onto Fe and Al oxides from Area 1 cores compared to Area 3 core material is probably due to a higher amount of crystalline Fe and Al oxides compared to amorphous Fe and Al oxides and higher Al substitution in Fe oxides in Area 1. This unique study illustrates the relationships between UNA, total P and S, and Al, Fe and Mn oxides in fractured shale under field conditions which can be used in planning remediation of this site and other similar sites.