Browsing by Author "Bligh, MW"
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- ItemContaminant release, mixing and microbial fluctuations initiated by infiltrating water within a replica field-scale legacy radioactive waste trench(Elsevier B. V., 2022-12-10) Kinsela, AS; Payne, TE; Bligh, MW; Vázquez-Campos, X; Wilkins, MR; Comarmond, MJ; Rowling, B; Waite, TDNumerous legacy near-surface radioactive waste sites dating from the mid 20th century have yet to be remediated and present a global contamination concern. Typically, there is insufficient understanding of contaminant release and redistribution, with invasive investigations often impractical due to the risk of disturbing the often significantly radiotoxic contaminants. Consequently, a replica waste trench (~5.4 m3), constructed adjacent to a legacy radioactive waste site (Little Forest Legacy Site, LFLS), was used to assist our understanding of the release and mixing processes of neodymium (Nd) — a chemical analogue for plutonium(III) and americium(III), two significant radionuclides in many contaminated environments. In order to clarify the behaviour of contaminants released from buried objects such as waste containers, a steel drum, representative of the hundreds of buried drums within the LFLS, was placed within the trench. Dissolved neodymium nitrate was introduced as a point-source contaminant to the base of the trench, outside the steel drum. Hydrologic conditions were manipulated to simulate natural rainfall intensities with dissolved lithium bromide added as a tracer. Neodymium was primarily retained both at its point of release at the bottom of the trench (>97 %) as well as at a steel container corrosion point, simulated through the emplacement of steel wool. However, over the 8-month field experiment, advective mixing initiated by surface water intrusions rapidly redistributed a small proportion of Nd to shallower waters (~1.5–1.7 %), as well as throughout the buried steel drum. Suspended particulate forms of Nd (>0.2 μm) were measured at all depths in the suboxic trench and were persistent across the entire study. Analyses of the microbial communities showed that their relative abundances and metabolic functions were strongly influenced by the prevailing geochemical conditions as a result of fluctuating water depths associated with rainfall events. The site representing steel corrosion exhibited divergent biogeochemical results with anomalous changes (sharp decrease) observed in both dissolved contaminant concentration as well as microbial diversity and functionality. This research demonstrates that experimental trenches provide a safe and unique method for simulating the behaviour of subsurface radioactive contaminants with results demonstrating the initial retention, partial shallow water redistribution, and stability of particulate form(s) of this radioactive analogue. These results have relevance for appropriate management and remediation strategies for the adjacent legacy site as well as for similar sites across the globe. © 2022 Elsevier B.V.
- ItemInfluence of dissolved silicate on rates of Fe(II) oxidation(American Chemical Society, 2016-10-05) Kinsela, AS; Jones, AM; Bligh, MW; Pham, AN; Collins, RN; Harrison, JJ; Wilsher, KL; Payne, TE; Waite, TDIncreasing concentrations of dissolved silicate progressively retard Fe(II) oxidation kinetics in the circum-neutral pH range 6.0–7.0. As Si:Fe molar ratios increase from 0 to 2, the primary Fe(III) oxidation product transitions from lepidocrocite to a ferrihydrite/silica-ferrihydrite composite. Empirical results, supported by chemical kinetic modeling, indicated that the decreased heterogeneous oxidation rate was not due to differences in absolute Fe(II) sorption between the two solids types or competition for adsorption sites in the presence of silicate. Rather, competitive desorption experiments suggest Fe(II) was associated with more weakly bound, outer-sphere complexes on silica-ferrihydrite compared to lepidocrocite. A reduction in extent of inner-sphere Fe(II) complexation on silica-ferrihydrite confers a decreased ability for Fe(II) to undergo surface-induced hydrolysis via electronic configuration alterations, thereby inhibiting the heterogeneous Fe(II) oxidation mechanism. Water samples from a legacy radioactive waste site (Little Forest, Australia) were shown to exhibit a similar pattern of Fe(II) oxidation retardation derived from elevated silicate concentrations. These findings have important implications for contaminant migration at this site as well as a variety of other groundwater/high silicate containing natural and engineered sites that might undergo iron redox fluctuations. © 2016 American Chemical Society
- ItemInstallation of a pilot experimental trench at the Little Forest legacy site(Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, 2018-07-30) Payne, TE; Kinsela, AS; Rowling, B; Hankin, SI; Cendón, DI; Comarmond, MJ; Bligh, MW; Hughes, CE; Anderson, D; Wilsher, KLDuring 2017, a pilot experimental trench was constructed at the Little Forest Legacy Site (LFLS). The objective of installing this trench was to facilitate experimental field-work aimed at further characterising the site, in particular the hydrology of the excavated trenches and of the near-surface layers in which the trenches are located. The test trench is of similar depth to the waste disposal trenches at the legacy site (3 metres) and extends 6 m in length. However, unlike the disposal trenches, the experimental trench contains no waste materials of any kind. Instead, the trench contains a number of sampling points and other instrumentation, and is back filled with river gravel to provide a uniform composition and maintain structural stability. It is intended that the pilot trench will be followed by other trenches with specific experimental objectives. The purposes of this report are to discuss the background, rationale for, and implementation of the facility; to provide a detailed description of the pilot trench; and to compile information and photographs documenting the excavation process. Although some preliminary hydrological data and comparisons with the legacy trenches are presented, the scientific data will be fully discussed and interpreted in future scientific reports.
- ItemResponse of microbial community function to fluctuating geochemical conditions within a legacy radioactive waste trench environment(American Society for Microbiology, 2017-08-17) Vázquez-Campos, X; Kinsela, AS; Bligh, MW; Harrison, JJ; Payne, TE; Waite, TDDuring the 1960s, small quantities of radioactive materials were codisposed with chemical waste at the Little Forest Legacy Site (Sydney, Australia) in 3-meter-deep, unlined trenches. Chemical and microbial analyses, including functional and taxonomic information derived from shotgun metagenomics, were collected across a 6-week period immediately after a prolonged rainfall event to assess the impact of changing water levels upon the microbial ecology and contaminant mobility. Collectively, results demonstrated that oxygen-laden rainwater rapidly altered the redox balance in the trench water, strongly impacting microbial functioning as well as the radiochemistry. Two contaminants of concern, plutonium and americium, were shown to transition from solid-iron-associated species immediately after the initial rainwater pulse to progressively more soluble moieties as reducing conditions were enhanced. Functional metagenomics revealed the potentially important role that the taxonomically diverse microbial community played in this transition. In particular, aerobes dominated in the first day, followed by an increase of facultative anaerobes/denitrifiers at day 4. Toward the mid-end of the sampling period, the functional and taxonomic profiles depicted an anaerobic community distinguished by a higher representation of dissimilatory sulfate reduction and methanogenesis pathways. Our results have important implications to similar near-surface environmental systems in which redox cycling occurs. © 2017 Vázquez-Campos et al.