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Abstract

Characterizing and predicting reactive solute transport in low hydraulic conductivity (K) clay-rich media is challenging because the very long transport time for solutes renders conventional column tests impractical. In this study, a centrifugation technique was developed to assess the transport of a simple aqueous solution (NaCl) by accelerating flow by centrifugal force through low K (1.1 × 10−11 m/s) core samples. Duplicate cores (52-mm length × 33-mm diameter) were centrifuged at 330 ×g for 90 d to model the migration of saline pore water (0.5 M NaCl) under in situ conditions through an approximately 17-m-thick clay prototype over approximately 24,000 years. A PHREEQC one-dimensional reactive solute transport code simulated effluent breakthrough of the NaCl during centrifugation, with best-fit cation exchange coefficients similar to batch tests. The calibrated code was used to predict solute profile development over the long term in the prototype or simulated field-scale conditions. Chromatographic separation of solutes due to ion exchange was evident over several meters in the simulated prototype and the field profile. The applicability of centrifugation methods to predict transport of more complex suites of reactive solutes over the long term is yet to be verified.