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Effects of Mineralogy, Exchange Capacity, Surface Area and Grain Size on Lithium Sorption to Zeolitic Alluvium Near Yucca Mountain, Nevada

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The Li+ ion is used frequently as an environmentally acceptable surrogate for sorbing radionuclides in field tracer tests, and experiments using Li are an important part of assessing the potential transport of radionuclides in saturated alluvium south of Yucca Mountain, Nevada, the site of a proposed nuclear waste repository. Equilibrium partition constants (Li+ Kds) were measured using batch studies incorporating a wide range of Li+ concentrations and two different grain-size fractions of alluvium samples from multiple depth intervals in two wells. Cation exchange capacity, surface area, bulk mineralogy from quantitative X-ray powder diffraction, and trace Mn- and Fe-oxyhydroxide mineralogy from extractive studies were evaluated as predictors for linearized Li+ Kd values (K lin) in the alluvium. Many of the predictor variables are correlated with each other and this was considered in the analysis. Linearized Kd values were consistently higher for fine particle-size fractions than for coarse fractions. Single and multivariate linear regression analyses indicated thatthe clinoptilolite + smectite content,taken togetheras a combined variable, was the best predictorfor Li+ sorption in the alluvium, although clinoptilolite content was clearly a better predictor when the two variables were considered separately in simple linear regressions. Even so, Li+ K lin predictions based on clinoptilolite and smectite abundance were accurate only to within about ±100%. This uncertainty suggests that there is either a high inherent variability in Li+ Klin values or that additional alluvium characteristics not measured or evaluated here may play an important role in simple Li+ cation exchange in the alluvium.


Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: December 1, 2003

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  • The JOURNAL publishes articles of interest to the international community of clay scientists, including but not limited to areas in mineralogy, crystallography, geology, geochemistry, sedimentology, soil science, agronomy, physical chemistry, colloid chemistry, ceramics, petroleum engineering, foundry engineering, and soil mechanics. Clays and Clay Minerals exists to disseminate to its worldwide readership the most recent developments in all of these aspects of clay materials. Manuscripts are welcome from all countries.

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