Time scales for sorption - Desorption and surface precipitation of uranyl on goethite
The sorption of uranium on mineral surfaces can significantly influence the fate and transport of uranium contamination in soils and groundwater. The rates of uranium adsorption and desorption on a synthetic goethite have been evaluated in batch experiments conducted at constant pH of 6 and ionic strength of 0.1 M. Adsorption and desorption reactions following the perturbation of initial states were complete within minutes to hours. Surface - solution exchange rates as measured by an isotope exchange method occur on an even shorter time scale. Although the uranium desorption rate was unaffected by the aging of uranium - goethite suspensions, the aging process appears to remove a portion of adsorbed uranium from a readily exchangeable pool. The distinction between sorption control and precipitation control of the dissolved uranium concentration was also investigated. In heterogeneous nucleation experiments, the dissolved uranium concentration was ultimately controlled by the solubility of a precipitated uranyl oxide hydrate. The X-ray diffraction pattern of the precipitate is characteristic of the mineral schoepite. Precipitation is kinetically hindered at low degrees of supersaturation. In one experiment, metastable sorption controlled dissolved uranium concentrations in excess of the solubility limit for more than 30 d.