Mobile uranium(IV)-bearing colloids in a mining-impacted wetland
Tetravalent uranium is commonly assumed to form insoluble species, resulting in the immobilization of uranium under reducing conditions. Here we present the first report of mobile U(IV)-bearing colloids in the environment, bringing into question this common assumption. We investigate the mobility of uranium in a mining-impacted wetland in France harbouring uranium concentrations of up to 14,000 p. p. m. As an apparent release of uranium into the stream passing through the wetland was observable, we examine soil and porewater composition as a function of depth to assess the geochemical conditions leading to this release. The analyses show the presence of U(IV) in soil as a non-crystalline species bound to amorphous Al-P-Fe-Si aggregates, and in porewater, as a distinct species associated with Fe and organic matter colloids. These results demonstrate the lability of U(IV) in these soils and its association with mobile porewater colloids that are ultimately released into surface water.