Actinide Interactions with Minerals Relevant to Geological Disposal and Contaminated Land Management

UoM administered thesis: Phd

  • Authors:
  • Rosemary Hibberd


Many countries intend to achieve the safe management of their radioactive wastes through geological disposal. In addition, radioactively contaminated land is of global concern. To address both of these technical challenges it is imperative to understand the behaviour and subsequent migration of radionuclides in the subsurface. This thesis addresses uncertainties in the behaviour of the long-lived, risk-driving radionuclides U and Np in their most mobile and environmentally relevant oxidation states, U(VI) and Np(V). The formation the U(VI) colloidal nanoparticles is identified under the high pH, low carbonate conditions expected within the near field of a cementitious Geological Disposal Facility (GDF). XAS, SAXS, and TEM have been used to characterise these U(VI) colloids as 60 – 80 nm clusters of 1 – 2 nm clarkeite-like (Na uranate) nanoparticles, which are stable in cement leachate for a period of at least 5 years. The reactivity of these U(VI) colloids towards a range of mineral phases was investigated. In the presence of the common rock-forming minerals biotite, orthoclase, and quartz, only limited reactivity was observed with > 80 % of the U(VI) remaining in the filtered fraction after up to 5 years of reaction. In contact with cement, > 97 % of the U(VI) was removed from solution within 1 month. Reversibility studies, luminescence spectroscopy, and XAS suggest that a large portion of the cement associated U(VI) is in a uranophane-like coordination environment, likely incorporated into the C-S-H interlayers or as a stable surface precipitate. Together, this suggests that while U(VI) colloids could form in high pH (> 13) cement leachate, providing an additional pathway for migration, many of them are likely to be removed from suspension by the presence of solid cement, although 2.4 % (1.0 μM) U(VI) remained in the filtered fraction even after 21 months of reaction. The interaction of aqueous U(VI) and Np(V) with a range of environmentally relevant Mn minerals has also been studied under circumneutral to alkaline conditions. Here, extensive (up to 99 %) uptake of U(VI) and Np(V) was observed in systems containing δ-Mn(IV)O2, triclinic (Na)-birnessite [Na0.5Mn(IV/III)2O4 · 1.5H2O], hausmannite [Mn(III/II)3O4], and rhodochrosite [Mn(II)CO3]. The uptake of U(VI) by δ-MnO2 and hausmannite was found to be partially irreversible, suggesting that these minerals could be particularly important in determining radionuclide migration. XAS indicated that both U(VI) and Np(V) formed edge-sharing bidentate adsorption complexes on the surface of δ-MnO2 and hausmannite, implying that these complexes are responsible for the observed reversibility. These complexes were also identified on triclinic (Na)-birnessite; however, after 1 month of reaction U(VI) was found to have migrated into the triclinic (Na)-birnessite interlayer, replacing Na+. Reaction with all three investigated Mn oxide phases was rapid, with equilibrium being reached within at least 2 weeks. However, whilst U(VI) and Np(V) were both extensively removed from solution in systems containing rhodochrosite, these reactions were much slower, with equilibrium taking up to 4 months to be established. XAS suggested that this was due to the formation of a U(VI) or Np(V) containing precipitate on the rhodochrosite surface.


Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date31 Dec 2017