4 years ago

Geochemical control on the reduction of U(VI) to mononuclear U(IV) species in lacustrine sediments

Contaminated systems in which uranium (U) concentrations slightly exceed the geochemical background are of particular interest to identify natural processes governing U trapping and accumulation in Earth’s surface environments. For this purpose, we examined the role of early diagenesis on the evolution of U speciation and mobility in sediments from an artificial lake located downstream from a former mining site. Sediment and pore water chemistry together with U and Fe solid state speciation were analyzed in sediment cores sampled down to 50 cm depth at four locations in the lake. These organic-rich sediments (∼12% organic C) exhibited U concentrations in the 40–80 mg kg−1 range. The sediment columns were anoxic 2–3 mm below the sediment-water interface and pore waters pH was circumneutral. Pore water chemistry profiles showed that organic carbon mineralization was associated with Fe and Mn reduction and was correlated with a decrease in dissolved U concentration with depth. Immobilization of U in the sediment was correlated with the reduction of U(VI) to U(IV) at depth, as shown by U LIII-edge XANES spectroscopic analysis. XANES and EXAFS spectroscopy at the Fe K-edge showed the reduction of structural Fe(III) to Fe(II) in phyllosilicate minerals with depth, coincident with U(VI) to U(IV) reduction. Thermodynamic modeling suggests that Fe(II) could act as a major reducing agent for U(VI) during early diagenesis of these sediments, leading to complete U reduction below ∼30 cm depth. Shell-by-shell and Cauchy-Wavelet analysis of U LIII-EXAFS spectra indicates that U(VI) and U(IV) are mainly present as mononuclear species bound to C, P or Si ligands. Chemical extractions confirmed that ∼60–80% of U was present as non-crystalline species, which emphasizes that such species should be considered when evaluating the fate of U in lacustrine environments and the efficiency of sediment remediation strategies.

Publisher URL: www.sciencedirect.com/science

DOI: S0016703717306890

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