Radionuclide transport in fractured chalk under abrupt changes in salinity

Tuvia Turkeltaub, Noam Weisbrod, Mavrik Zavarin, Elliot Chang, Annie B. Kersting, Nadya Teutsch, Sari Roded, Emily L. Tran, Yarden Gerera, Ofra Klein-BenDavid, Yehonatan Gell

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Internationally, it has been agreed that geologic repositories for spent fuel and radioactive waste are considered the internationally agreed upon solution for intermediate and long-term disposal. In countries where traditional nuclear waste repository host rocks (e.g., clay, salt, granite) are not available, other low permeability lithologies must be studied. Here, chalk is considered to determine its viability for disposal. Despite chalk's low bulk permeability, it may contain fracture networks that can facilitate radionuclide transport. In arid areas, groundwater salinity may change seasonally due to the mixing between brackish groundwater and fresh meteoric water. Such salinity changes may impact the radionuclides' mobility. In this study, radioactive U(VI) and radionuclide simulant tracers (Sr, Ce and Re) were injected into a naturally fractured chalk core. The mobility of tracers was investigated under abrupt salinity variations. Two solutions were used: a low ionic strength (IS) artificial rainwater (ARW; IS ∼0.002) and a high IS artificial groundwater (AGW; IS ∼0.2). During the experiments, the tracers were added to ARW, then the carrier was changed to AGW, and vice versa. Ce was mobile only in colloidal form, while Re was transported as a conservative tracer. Both Re and Ce demonstrated no change in mobility due to salinity changes. In contrast, U and Sr showed increased mobility when AGW was introduced and decreased mobility when ARW was introduced into the core. These experimental results, supported by reactive transport modeling, suggest that saline groundwater solutions promote U and Sr release via ion-exchange and enhance their migration in fractured chalk. The study emphasizes the impact of salinity variations near spent fuel repositories and their possible impact on radionuclide mobility.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number168636
    JournalScience of the Total Environment
    StatePublished - 20 Feb 2024

    Bibliographical note

    Publisher Copyright:
    © 2023 Elsevier B.V.


    • Carbonate rocks
    • Cerium
    • Ionic strength
    • Radionuclides
    • Reactive transport
    • Strontium
    • Uranium

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Pollution
    • Waste Management and Disposal
    • Environmental Engineering
    • Environmental Chemistry


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