Journal article

Partitioning of uranyl between ferrihydrite and humic substances at acidic and circum-neutral pH

As part of a larger study of the reactivity and mobility of uranyl (U(VI) O-2(2+)) cations in subsurface environments containing natural organic matter (NOM) and hydrous ferric oxides, we have examined the effect of reference humic and fulvic substances on the sorption of uranyl on 2-line ferrihydrite (Fh), a common, naturally occurring nano-Fe(III)-hydroxide. Uranyl was reacted with Fh at pH 4.6 and 7.0 in the presence and absence of Elliott Soil Humic Acid (ESHA) (0-835 ppm) or Suwanee River Fulvic Acid (SRFA) (0-955 ppm). No evidence was found for reduction of uranyl by either form of NOM after 24 h of exposure. The following three size fractions were considered in this study: (1) >= 0.2 mu m (Fh-NOM aggregates), (2) 0.02-0.2 mu m (dispersed Fhnano particles and NOM macro-molecules), and (3) < 0.02 mu m (dissolved). The extent to which U(VI) is sorbed in aggregates or dispersed as colloids was assessed by comparing U, Fe, and NOM concentrations in these three size fractions. Partitioning of uranyl between Fh and NOM was determined in size fraction (1) using X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS). Uranyl sorption on Fh-NOM aggregates was affected by the presence of NOM in different ways depending on pH and type of NOM (ESHA vs. SRFA). The presence of ESHA in the uranyl-Fh-NOM ternary system at pH 4.6 enhanced uranyl uptake more than the presence of SRFA. In contrast, neither form of NOM affected uranyl sorption at pH 7.0 over most of the NOM concentration range examined (0-500 ppm); at the highest NOM concentrations (500955 ppm) uranyl uptake in the aggregates was slightly inhibited at pH 7.0, which is interpreted as being due to the dispersion of Fh aggregates. XAS at the U L-III-edge was used to characterize molecular-level changes in uranyl complexation as a result of sorption to the Fh-NOM aggregates. In the absence of NOM, uranyl formed dominantly inner-sphere, mononuclear, bidentate sorption complexes on Fh. However, when NOM concentration was increased at pH 4.6, the proportion of uranyl- Fh inner-sphere sorption complexes decreased relative to uranyl-ESHA or uranyl-SRFA complexes, which comprised up to similar to 60% of the total uranyl in the systems studied. At pH 7.0, uranyl-NOM complexes were also present in the Fh-NOM aggregates in the concentration ranges of ESHA or SRFA considered; however, the proportion of these complexes was smaller at pH 7.0 than at pH 4.6 and did not increase significantly with increasing NOM concentration. (C) 2017 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


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