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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Isotopic Studies of Contaminant Transport at the Hanford Site, WA

  • Author(s): Christensen, J.N.
  • Conrad, M.E.
  • DePaolo, D.J.
  • Dresel, P.E.
  • et al.

Processes of fluid flow and chemical transport through the vadose zone can be characterized through the isotopic systematics of natural soils, minerals, pore fluids and groundwater. In this contribution, we first review our research using measured isotopic variations, due both to natural and site related processes, of the elements H, O, N, Sr and U, to study the interconnection between vadose zone and groundwater contamination at the Hanford Site in south-central Washington. We follow this brief review with a presentation of new data pertaining to vadose zone and groundwater contamination in the WMA T-TX-TY vicinity. Uranium (U) isotopic data for the C3832 core (WMA TX) indicates the involvement of processed natural U fuel, and links the observed U contamination to the nearby single shelled tank TX-104. The data also precludes contamination from an early 1970 s TX-107 leak. In the case of the C4104 core (WMA T), the U isotopic data indicates a mixture of processed natural and enriched U fuels consistent with the major leak from T-106 in 1973. Uranium and Strontium isotopic data for the cores also provides direct evidence for chemical interaction between high-pH waste fluid and sediment. Isotopic data for groundwater nitrate contamination in the vicinity of WMA-T strongly suggests high-level tank waste (most likely from T-106) as the source of very high 99Tc concentrations recently observed at the NE corner of WMAT.

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