Radon-222 migration in a soil. Application to stores of residues from uranium ore processing.
Cécile FERRY, doctorate thesis in science of the University of Paris-XI Orsay defended on the 21st April 2000.
Report CEA - Order n°: 6127
Uranium Mill Tailings (UNIT) contain comparatively large quantities of radium?226. This radionuclide yields, by radioactive decay, the radioactive gas radon-222. Tailing piles are routinely covered to reduce the radon release-rate into the atmosphere. In order to assess the long tenn environmental impact of a UMT repository, mechanisms governing radon exhalation at the soil surface must be deciphered and understood.
A model of radon transport in the unsaturated zone is developed for this purpose: water- and air-flow in the porous material are determined, as well as radon transport by diffusion in the pore space and advection by the gas phase. The radon transport model in the unsaturated zone TRACI (which stands, in French, for Radon Transport within the Unsaturated Layer) calculates moisture contents in the soil, Darcy's velocities of the liquid and gas phases, radon concentrations in the gas phase and radon flux at the soil surface.
TRACIs results are compared with observations carried out on a UMT and a cover layer. Input parameters are derived from the textural analysis of the material under study, whereas upper boundary conditions are given by meteorological data. If we consider measurement errors and uncertainties on the porous medium characterisation, model's results are generally in good agreement with observations, at least on the long run. Moreover, data analysis shows that transient phenomena are understood as well, in most situations.