The effects of nonlinear sorption and competition with major cations present in the soil solution on radioactive strontium transport in an eolian sand were examined. Three laboratory techniques were used to identify and quantify the chemical and hydrodynamic processes involved in strontium transport: batch experiments, stirred flow-through reactor experiments and saturated laboratory columns. The major goal was to compare the results obtained under static and dynamic conditions and to describe in a deterministic manner the predominant processes involved in radioactive strontium transport in such systems. Experiments under dynamic conditions, namely flow-through reactor and column experiments, were in very good agreement even though the solid/liquid ratio was very different. The experimental data obtained from the flow-through reactor study pointed to a nonlinear, instantaneous and reversible sorption process. Miscible displacement experiments were conducted to demonstrate the competition between stable and radioactive strontium and to quantify its effect on the 85Sr retardation factor. The results were modeled using the PHREEQC computer code. A suitable cation-exchange model was used to describe the solute/soil reaction. The model successfully described the results of the entire set of miscible displacement experiments using the same set of parameter values for the reaction calculations. The column study revealed that the stable Sr aqueous concentration was the most sensitive variable of the model, and that the initial state of the sand/solution system had also to be controlled to explain and describe the measured retardation factor of radioactive strontium. From these observations, propositions can be made to explain the discrepancies observed between some data obtained from static (batches) and dynamic (reactor and column) experiments. Desorbed antecedent species (stable Sr) are removed from the column or reactor in the flow system but continue to compete for sorption sites in the batch system. Batch experiments are simple and fast, and provide a very useful means of multiplying data. However, interpretation becomes difficult when different species compete for sorption sites in the soil/solution system. A combination of batches, flow-through reactor and column experiments, coupled with hydrogeochemical modeling, would seem to offer a very powerful tool for identifying and quantifying the predominant processes on a cubic decimeter scale (dm3) and for providing a range of radioactive strontium retardation factor as a function of the geochemistry of the soil/solution system.
a- Lab. d'Etud. Transferts Dans Les S., IRSN/DEI/SARG, BP n17, 92262 Fontenay Aux R-oses C.
b- Lab. d'Etud. Transferts Hydrol. E., CNRS/INPG/IRD/UJF-UMR 5564, BP n53, 38041 Grenoble Cedex 9, F.
c- Section d'Application des Traceurs, CEA/DRT/DTEN, 17 R. Martyrs, 38054 Grenoble C.