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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Comparison of Electrostatic and Non-Electrostatic Models for U(VI) Sorption on Aquifer Sediments.


A non-electrostatic generalized composite surface complexation model (SCM) was developed for U(VI) sorption on contaminated F-Area sediments from the U.S. Department of Energy Savannah River Site, South Carolina. The objective of this study was to test if a simpler, semi-empirical, non-electrostatic U(VI) sorption model (NEM) could achieve the same predictive performance as a SCM with electrostatic correction terms in describing U(VI) plume evolution and long-term mobility. One-dimensional reactive transport simulations considering key hydrodynamic processes, Al and Fe minerals, as well as H+ and U surface complexation, with and without electrostatic correction terms, were conducted. The NEM was first calibrated with laboratory batch H+ and U(VI) sorption data on F-Area sediments, and then the surface area of the NEM was adjusted to match field observations of dissolved U(VI). Modeling results indicate that the calibrated NEM was able to perform as well as the previously developed electrostatic model in predicting the long-term evolution of H+ and U(VI) at the site, given the variability of field-site data. The electrostatic and NEM models yield somewhat different results for the time period when basin discharge was active; however, it is not clear which modeling approach may be better to model this early time period because groundwater quality data during this period were not available. A key finding of this study is that the applicability of NEM (and thus robustness of its predictions) to the field system evolves with time and is strongly dependent on the pH range that was used to develop the model.

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