Simplified behaviors from increased heterogeneity: I. 2-D uranium transport experiments at the decimeter scale

Andrew W. Miller, Derrick R. Rodriguez, Bruce D. Honeyman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Intermediate scale tank studies were conducted to examine the effects of physical heterogeneity of aquifer material on uranium desorption and subsequent transport in order to bridge the scaling gap between bench and field scale systems. Uranium contaminated sediment from a former uranium mill field site was packed into two 2-D tanks with internal dimensions of 2.44 × 1.22 × 0.076 m (tank 1) and 2.44 × 0.61 × 0.076 m (tank 2). Tank 1 was packed in a physically homogenous manner, and tank 2 was packed with long lenses of high and low conductivities resulting in different flow fields within the tanks. Chemical gradients within the flow domain were altered by temporal changes in influent water chemistry. The uranium source was desorption from the sediment. Despite the physical differences in the flow fields, there were minimal differences in global uranium leaching behavior between the two tanks. The dominant uranium species in both tanks over time and space was Ca2UO2(CO3)30. However, the uranium/alkalinity relationships varied as a function of time in tank 1 and were independent of time in tank 2. After planned stop-flow events, small, short-lived rebounds were observed in tank 1 while no rebound of uranium concentrations was observed in tank 2. Despite appearing to be in local equilibrium with respect to uranium desorption, a previously derived surface complexation model was insufficient to describe uranium partitioning within the flow domain. This is the first in a pair of papers; the companion paper presents an intermediate scale 3-D tank experiment and inter-tank comparisons. For these systems, physical heterogeneity at or above the decimeter scale does not affect global scale uranium desorption and transport. Instead, uranium fluxes are controlled by chemistry dependent desorption patterns induced by changing the influent ionic composition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)39-50
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Contaminant Hydrology
StatePublished - May 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Complexity
  • Metals
  • Radionuclides
  • Sorption
  • Upscaling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Water Science and Technology


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