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Journal Articles Journal of Contaminant Hydrology Year : 2008

Effects of water content on reactive transport of 85Sr in Chernobyl sand columns


It is known that under unsaturated conditions, the transport of solutes can deviate from ideal advective–dispersive behaviour even for macroscopically homogeneous porous materials. Causes may include physical non-equilibrium, sorption kinetics, non-linear sorption, and the irregular distribution of sorption sites. We have performed laboratory experiments designed to identify the processes responsible for the non-ideality of radioactive Sr transport observed under unsaturated flow conditions in an Aeolian sandy deposit from the Chernobyl exclusion zone. Miscible displacement experiments were carried out at various water contents and corresponding flow rates in a laboratory model system. Results of our experiments have shown that breakthrough curves of a conservative tracer exhibit a higher degree of asymmetry when the water content decreases than at saturated water content and same Darcy velocity. It is possible that velocity variations caused by heterogeneities at the macroscopic scale are responsible for this situation. Another explanation is that molecular diffusion drives the solute mass transfer between mobile and immobile water regions, but the surface of contact between these water regions is small. At very low concentrations, representative of a radioactive Sr contamination of the pore water, sorption and physical disequilibrium dominate the radioactive Sr transport under unsaturated flow conditions. A sorption reaction is described by a cation exchange mechanism calibrated under fully saturated conditions. The sorption capacity, as well as the exchange coefficients are not affected by desaturation. The number of accessible exchange sites was calculated on the basis that the solid remained in contact with water and that the fraction of solid phase in contact with mobile water is numerically equal to the proportion of mobile water to total water content. That means that for this type of sandy soil, the nature of mineral phases is the same in advective and non-advective domains. So sorption reaction parameters can be estimated from more easily conducted saturated experiments, but hydrodynamic behaviour must be characterized by conservative tracer experiments under unsaturated flow conditions.

Dates and versions

insu-00389130 , version 1 (28-05-2009)



Stephanie Szenknect, Christophe Ardois, Lionel Dewière, Jean-Paul Gaudet. Effects of water content on reactive transport of 85Sr in Chernobyl sand columns. Journal of Contaminant Hydrology, 2008, 100 (1-2), pp.47 à 57. ⟨10.1016/j.jconhyd.2008.05.004⟩. ⟨insu-00389130⟩
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