Uranium and Cesium sorption to bentonite colloids in high salinity and carbonate-rich environments: Implications for radionuclide transport

E. L. Tran, N. Teutsch, O. Klein-BenDavid, N. Weisbrod

Research output: Contribution to journalMeeting Abstract


When radionuclides are leaked into the subsurface due to engineered waste disposal container failure, the ultimate barrier to migration of radionuclides into local aquifers is sorption to the surrounding rock matrix and sediments, which often includes a bentonite backfill. The extent of this sorption is dependent on pH, ionic strength, surface area availability, radionuclide concentration, surface mineral composition, and solution chemistry. Colloidal-sized bentonite particles eroded from the backfill have been shown to facilitate the transport of radionuclides sorbed to them away from their source. Thus, sorption of radionuclides such as uranium and cesium to bentonite surfaces can be both a mobilization or retardation factor. Though numerous studies have been conducted to-date on sorption of radionuclides under low ionic strength and carbonate-poor conditions, there has been little research conducted on the behavior of radionuclides in high salinities and carbonate rich conditions typical of aquifers in the vicinity of some potential nuclear repositories. This study attempts to characterize the sorption properties of U(VI) and Cs to bentonite colloids under these conditions using controlled batch experiments. Results indicated that U(VI) undergoes little to no sorption to bentonite colloids in a high-salinity (TDS= 9000 mg/L) artificial groundwater. This lack of sorption was attributed to the formation of CaUO2(CO3)22- and Ca2UO2(CO3)3 aqueous ions which stabilize the UO22+ ions in solution. In contrast, Cs exhibited greater sorption, the extent to which was influenced greatly by the matrix water's ionic strength and the colloid concentration used. Surprisingly, when both U and Cs were together, the presence of U(VI) in solution decreased Cs sorption, possibly due to the formation of stabilizing CaUO2(CO3)22- anions. The implications of this research are that rather than undergoing colloid-facilitated transport, U(VI) is expected to migrate similarly to a conservative dissolved species under these conditions, and little retardation through sorption onto the surrounding rock matrix is predicted. Cs is expected to undergo more sorption, though U(VI) presence may have a mobilizing effect.
Original languageEnglish
JournalGeophysical Research Abstracts
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2017
EventEGU General Assembly 2017 - Vienna, Austria
Duration: 23 Apr 201728 Apr 2017


  • 1829 Groundwater hydrology
  • 1831 Groundwater quality
  • 1832 Groundwater transport
  • 1847 Modeling


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