Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Uranium chemistry and geological disposal of radioactive waste

16.12.2019

New insights using the diamond light

A new paper to be published on 16 December provides a significant new insight into our understanding of uranium biogeochemistry and could help with the UK's nuclear legacy.


The uranium-persulfide complex associated with the transforming mineral surface.

Credit: Diamond Light Source

Conducted by a team of researchers from the University of Manchester, Diamond Light Source and Radioactive Waste Management, their work shows for the first time how uranium forms a uranium-sulfur complex under conditions generally found in the environment and how this compound can be an important intermediary in uranium immobilisation.

Published in Environmental Science & Technology, the paper is called "Formation of a U(VI)-persulfide complex during environmentally relevant sulfidation of iron (oxyhydr)oxides" 1

Professor Katherine Morris, Associate Dean for Research Facilities in the Faculty of Science and Engineering, University of Manchester and the Research Director for the BNFL Research Centre in Radwaste Disposal explains why recreating and studying these chemical complexes is highly relevant for understanding and dealing with radioactive waste.

She explains: "To be able to predict the behaviour of the uranium during geological disposal, we need to take into account that it may have interacted with other processes taking place in the ground. These so-called biogeochemical reactions are often a complex set of interactions between dissolved chemical species, mineral surfaces, and microorganisms."

The recent study is the first time that researchers have shown that a uranium-sulfide complex can form under conditions representative of a deep underground environment. This complex then transforms further into highly immobile uranium oxide nanoparticles.

In the experiment, the researchers studied uranium when it sits at the surface of the mineral ferrihydrite, which is a widespread mineral in the environment. The researchers used an X-ray based method called X-ray Absorption Spectroscopy (XAS) to study the samples at Diamond Light Source, the UK's national Synchrotron. The XAS data, in combination with computational modelling, showed that during the sulfidation reaction, a short-lived and novel U(VI)-persulfide complex formed during this biogeochemical process.

Professor Sam Shaw, Co-Investigator and Professor of Environmental Mineralogy at the University of Manchester; "Shining the synchrotron beam onto the sample causes the uranium within to emit X-rays. By analysing the X-ray signal from the samples our team were able to determine the chemical form of uranium, and to which other elements it is bound.

To further validate the theory on the formation pathway of the uranium-sulfur complexes, our team also made computer simulations to conclude which type of complex is more likely to form. This is the first observation of this form of uranium under aqueous conditions, and provides new insight into how uranium behaves in environments where sulfide is present. This work

demonstrates the deep understanding we can develop of these complex systems and this knowledge will help underpin efforts to manage radioactive wastes in a geological disposal facility."

Dr Luke Townsend, Postdoctoral Fellow in Environmental Radiochemistry at The University of Manchester, who undertook this research as part of his PhD further adds:

"When trying to mimic environmental processes in the laboratory, it's a challenge to produce accurate, high quality, reproducible science with such complex experiments, whilst also maintaining relevance to the geodisposal environment. However, obtaining exciting results such as these makes all the hard work and commitment to the project from myself and the group, both in our labs in Manchester and on the beamlines at Diamond, completely worthwhile."

The XAS measurements were performed at Diamond on beamlines I20 and B18 by the researchers who used highly controlled sulfidation experiments that mimic biogeochemical processes in the deep underground environment. This was combined with geochemical analyses and computational modelling to track and understand uranium behaviour.

Physical Science Director at Diamond, Laurent Chapon concludes; "This is another example of how Diamond's state of the art analytical tools are enabling scientists to follow complex processes and help them to tackle 21st century challenges. In this instance, our beamlines allowed the users to gain real insight into the environmental relevance of this new uranium-sulfur complex, which feeds into our understanding of geological disposal."

###

1 http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/acs.est.9b03180 - available online from 06:01 16th December 2019.

Media Contact

Isabelle Boscaro-Clarke
isabelle.boscaro-clarke@diamond.ac.uk
01-235-778-130

http://www.diamond.ac.uk 

Isabelle Boscaro-Clarke | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/acs.est.9b03180

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht NASA, NOAA analyses reveal 2019 second warmest year on record
16.01.2020 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht New assessment of gas locked in ice in European waters
16.01.2020 | University of Southampton

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Miniature double glazing: Material developed which is heat-insulating and heat-conducting at the same time

Styrofoam or copper - both materials have very different properties with regard to their ability to conduct heat. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) in Mainz and the University of Bayreuth have now jointly developed and characterized a novel, extremely thin and transparent material that has different thermal conduction properties depending on the direction. While it can conduct heat extremely well in one direction, it shows good thermal insulation in the other direction.

Thermal insulation and thermal conduction play a crucial role in our everyday lives - from computer processors, where it is important to dissipate heat as...

Im Focus: Fraunhofer IAF establishes an application laboratory for quantum sensors

In order to advance the transfer of research developments from the field of quantum sensor technology into industrial applications, an application laboratory is being established at Fraunhofer IAF. This will enable interested companies and especially regional SMEs and start-ups to evaluate the innovation potential of quantum sensors for their specific requirements. Both the state of Baden-Württemberg and the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft are supporting the four-year project with one million euros each.

The application laboratory is being set up as part of the Fraunhofer lighthouse project »QMag«, short for quantum magnetometry. In this project, researchers...

Im Focus: How Cells Assemble Their Skeleton

Researchers study the formation of microtubules

Microtubules, filamentous structures within the cell, are required for many important processes, including cell division and intracellular transport. A...

Im Focus: World Premiere in Zurich: Machine keeps human livers alive for one week outside of the body

Researchers from the University Hospital Zurich, ETH Zurich, Wyss Zurich and the University of Zurich have developed a machine that repairs injured human livers and keep them alive outside the body for one week. This breakthrough may increase the number of available organs for transplantation saving many lives of patients with severe liver diseases or cancer.

Until now, livers could be stored safely outside the body for only a few hours. With the novel perfusion technology, livers - and even injured livers - can now...

Im Focus: SuperTIGER on its second prowl -- 130,000 feet above Antarctica

A balloon-borne scientific instrument designed to study the origin of cosmic rays is taking its second turn high above the continent of Antarctica three and a half weeks after its launch.

SuperTIGER (Super Trans-Iron Galactic Element Recorder) is designed to measure the rare, heavy elements in cosmic rays that hold clues about their origins...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

11th Advanced Battery Power Conference, March 24-25, 2020 in Münster/Germany

16.01.2020 | Event News

Laser Colloquium Hydrogen LKH2: fast and reliable fuel cell manufacturing

15.01.2020 | Event News

„Advanced Battery Power“- Conference, Contributions are welcome!

07.01.2020 | Event News

 
Latest News

A new 'cool' blue

17.01.2020 | Life Sciences

EU-project SONAR: Better batteries for electricity from renewable energy sources

17.01.2020 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Neuromuscular organoid: It’s contracting!

17.01.2020 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>