U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights

New Method for Uranium Remediation in Acidic Waste Plumes
Published: March 03, 2011
Posted: April 07, 2011

Acidic uranium (U) groundwater plumes resulted from acid extraction of plutonium during the Cold War and from U mining and milling operations. A sustainable remediation method is not yet available. DOE scientists from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory are exploring the use of humic acids (HA) to immobilize U in groundwater under acidic conditions. When acidic groundwater (pH below 5.0) is treated with humic acid, U can adsorb onto aquifer sediments rapidly, strongly, and practically irreversibly. Using historically contaminated sediments from the DOE Savannah River site, column-leaching experiments show that with humic acid treatment, 99% of the contaminant U was immobilized at pH < 4.5 under normal groundwater flow rates, suggesting that humic acid treatment is a promising in situ remediation method for acidic U waste plumes. As a remediation reagent, humic acids are resistant to biodegradation, cost-effective, nontoxic, and easily introducible into the subsurface.

Reference: Wan, J., W. Dong, and T. K. Tokunaga. 2011. "Method To Attenuate U(VI) Mobility in Acidic Waste Plumes Using Humic Acids," Environmental Science and Technology, 45(6), 2331–37. DOI: 10.1021/es103864t. (Reference link)

Contact: David Lesmes, SC 23.1, (301) 903-2977
Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Subsurface Biogeochemical Research

Division: SC-23.1 Climate and Environmental Sciences Division, BER


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