Uranium speciation in river sediments contaminated by phosphate ores
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Large amounts of phosphate ores with high concentrations of uranium were dumped by a phosphate plant into the Flix water reservoir in the Ebre River, Catalonia, NE Spain. These phosphate wastes have been mixed over the years with effluents from other industries as well as with the sediments of the river, resulting in a complex mixture of solid wastes and sediments. No investigations on uranium speciation in such sediments were made because of the complexity of the sediments composition as well as the relatively low uranium content. However, these studies are necessary in order to predict the release of the uranium to the river waters. Here, we studied uranium speciation in sediments from two sampling points of the Flix water reservoir and at depths from 5 to 113 cm. We used room temperature time-resolved laser fluorescence spectroscopy and a three-step sequential extraction procedure described by the Standards, Measurements, and Testing Programme of the European Union. We found that uranium was mainly present in the sediment samples as meta-autunite [Ca(UO2)2(PO4)2 10–12H2O], whose low solubility will result in a low release of uranium to the river waters. In addition, we found that some uranium was linked to sediments by forming surface complexes. We therefore made the first study of uranium speciation in the sediments of the Flix water reservoir.
CitationMeca, S. [et al.]. Uranium speciation in river sediments contaminated by phosphate ores. "Environmental chemistry letters", Març 2012, vol. 10, núm. 1, p. 49-53.