Mobility of Radionuclides in Fractured Carbonate Rocks: Lessons from a Field-Scale Transport Experiment

Emily L. Tran, Paul Reimus, Ofra Klein-Bendavid, Nadya Teutsch, Annie B. Kersting, Noam Weisbrod

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Current research on radionuclide disposal is mostly conducted in granite, clay, saltstone, or volcanic tuff formations. These rock types are not always available to host a geological repository in every nuclear waste-generating country, but carbonate rocks may serve as a potential alternative. To assess their feasibility, a forced gradient cross-borehole tracer experiment was conducted in a saturated fractured chalk formation. The mobility of stable Sr and Cs (as analogs for their radioactive counterparts), Ce (an actinide analog), Re (a Tc analog), bentonite particles, and fluorescent dye tracers through the flow path was analyzed. The migration of each of these radionuclide analogs (RAs) was shown to be dependent upon their chemical speciation in solution, their interactions with bentonite, and their sorption potential to the chalk rock matrix. The brackish groundwater resulted in flocculation and immobilization of most particulate RAs. Nevertheless, the high permeability of the fracture system allowed for fast overall transport times of all aqueous RAs investigated. This study suggests that the geochemical properties of carbonate rocks may provide suitable conditions for certain types of radionuclide storage (in particular, brackish, high-porosity, and low-permeability chalks). Nevertheless, careful consideration should be given to high-permeability fracture networks that may result in high radionuclide mobility.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11249-11257
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number18
StatePublished - 15 Sep 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry


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