A field-scale reactive transport model for U(VI) migration influenced by coupled multirate mass transfer and surface complexation reactions

R Ma, C Zheng, H Prommer, J Greskowiak, C Liu, J Zachara, M Rockhold

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This study explores field-scale modeling of U(VI) reactive transport through incorporation of laboratory and field data. A field-scale reactive transport model was developed on the basis of laboratory-characterized U(VI) surface complexation reactions (SCRs) and multirate mass transfer processes, as well as field-measured hydrogeochemical conditions at the U.S. Department of Energy, Hanford 300 Area (300 A), Washington. The model was used to assess the importance of multirate mass transfer processes on U(VI) reactive transport and to evaluate the effect of variable geochemical conditions caused by dynamic river water-groundwater interactions on U(VI) plume migration. Model simulations revealed complex spatiotemporal relationships between groundwater composition and U(VI) speciation, adsorption, and plume migration. In general, river water intrusion enhances uranium adsorption and lowers aqueous uranium concentration because river water dilution increases pH and decreases aqueous bicarbonate concentration, leading to overall enhanced U(VI) surface complexation. Strong U(VI) retardation was computed for the field-measured hydrogeochemical conditions, suggesting a slow dissipation of the U(VI) plume, a phenomenon consistent with field observations. The simulations also showed that SCR-retarded U(VI) migration becomes more dynamic and synchronous with the groundwater flow field when multirate mass transfer processes are involved. Breakthrough curves at selected locations and the temporal changes in the calculated mass during the 20 year simulation period indicated that uranium adsorption/desorption never attained steady state because of the dynamic flow field and groundwater composition variations caused by river water intrusion. Thus, the multirate SCR model appears to be a crucial consideration for future reactive transport simulations of uranium contaminants at the Hanford 300 A site and elsewhere under similar hydrogeochemical conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberW05509
Number of pages17
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2010
Externally publishedYes


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