Neptunium and uranium interactions with environmentally and industrially relevant iron minerals

Luke Townsend, Kurt Smith, Ellen Winstanley, Katherine Morris, Olwen Stagg, Francis Livens, Liam Abrahamsen-Mills, Dick Blackham, Samuel Shaw

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Neptunium (237Np) is an important radionuclide in the nuclear fuel cycle in areas such as effluent treatment and the geodisposal of radioactive waste. Due to neptunium’s redox sensitivity and its tendency to adsorb strongly to mineral phases, such as iron oxides/sulfides, the environmental mobility of Np can be altered significantly by a wide variety of chemical processes. Here, Np interactions with key iron minerals, ferrihydrite (Fe5O8H·4H2O), goethite (α-FeOOH), and mackinawite (FeS), are investigated using X-ray Absorption Spectroscopy (XAS) in order to explore the mobility of neptunyl(V) (Np(V)O2+) moiety in environmental (radioactive waste disposal) and industrial (effluent treatment plant) scenarios. Analysis of the Np LIII-edge X-ray Absorption Near Edge Structure (XANES) and Extended X-ray Absorption Fine Structure (EXAFS) showed that upon exposure to goethite and ferrihydrite, Np(V) adsorbed to the surface, likely as an inner-sphere complex. Interestingly, analysis showed that only the first two shells (Oax and Oeq) of the EXAFS could be modelled with a high degree of confidence and there was no clear indication of Fe or carbonate in the fits. When Np(V)O2+ was added to a mackinawite containing system, Np(V) was reduced to Np(IV) and formed a nanocrystalline Np(IV)O2 solid. An analogous experiment was also performed with U(VI)O22+ and a similar reduction was observed, with U(VI) being reduced to nanocrystalline uraninite (U(IV)O2). These results highlight that Np(V) may undergo a variety of speciation changes in environmental and engineered systems whilst also highlighting the need for a multi-technique approaches to speciation determination for actinyl (for example, Np(V)O2+) species.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number2
Early online date28 Jan 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2022

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Dalton Nuclear Institute


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