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Keywords:

  • porous media;
  • radionuclides;
  • reactive transport;
  • strontium;
  • theory of chromatography

[1] As a fluid carries solutes through a porous material, species that sorb onto the surface of the material travel more slowly than the fluid. Stronger adsorption results in slower solute migration, or increased solute retardation. The adsorption of strontium (Sr2+) onto iron-oxides is strongly pH-dependent and becomes significant at high pH. Radioactive Sr2+isotopes are, therefore, commonly stored in alkaline solutions to maximize their retardation. Field observations and numerical simulations of the leakage of such solutions into low-pH soils, however, show that even Sr2+ stored in alkaline solutions can migrate without retardation. Migration occurs because hydrodynamic dispersion allows mixing of Sr2+with the low-pH fluid forming an acidic Sr2+-rich plume which can travel without retardation. Here we report the first experimental observations confirming this dispersion-induced fast Sr2+transport. We report column-flood experiments where a high-pH solution containing Sr2+was injected into a low-pH porous medium of iron-oxide-coated beads. We observe both a strongly retarded Sr2+ front and an isolated fast pulse of Sr2+traveling at the average fluid velocity. This dispersion-induced fast pulse of strontium must be taken into account when considering the safety of radionuclide storage in alkaline solutions.