The longevity of subsurface U(IV) produced by reduction of U(VI) during in situ bioremediation can be limited by reoxidation to more mobile U(VI) species. Coupling of the biogeochemical cycles of U and Mn may affect the fate and transport of uranium. Manganese oxides can act as a powerful oxidant that accelerates the oxidative dissolution of UO2. This study investigated the physical and chemical factors controlling the interaction between UO2 and MnO2, which are both poorly soluble minerals. A multi-chamber reactor with a permeable membrane was used to eliminate direct contact of the two minerals while still allowing transport of aqueous species. The oxidation of UO2 was not significantly enhanced by MnO2 if the two solids were physically separated. Complete mixing of MnO2 with UO2 led to a much greater extent and rate of U oxidation. When direct contact is not possible, the reaction slowly progresses through release of soluble U(IV) with its adsorption and oxidation on MnO2. Continuously-stirred tank reactors (CSTRs) were used to quantify the steady-state rates of UO2 dissolution induced by MnO2. MnO2 dramatically promoted UO2 dissolution, but the degree of promotion leveled off once the MnO2:UO2 ratio exceeded a critical value. Substantial amounts of U(VI) and Mn(II) were retained on MnO2 surfaces. The total production of Mn(II) was less than that of U(VI), indicating that the fate of Mn products and their impact on UO2-MnO2 reaction kinetics were complicated and may involve formation of Mn(III) phases. At higher dissolved inorganic carbon concentrations, UO2 oxidation by MnO2 was faster and less U(VI) was adsorbed to MnO2. Such an inverse relationship suggested that U(VI) may passivate MnO2 surfaces. A conceptual model was developed to describe the oxidation rate of UO2 by MnO2. This model is potentially applicable to a broad range of water chemistry conditions and is relevant to other environmental redox processes involving two poorly soluble minerals.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Geochemistry and Petrology