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Sophisticated monitoring array to address mystery of uranium plume
Date:9/17/2008

that supported the nation's weapons program decades ago.

Scientists have designed an elegant, yet adaptive site, to study the effects of groundwater level, flow direction and composition on uranium concentrations in groundwater, and uranium migration to the Columbia River.

The Hanford IFRC (http://ifchanford.pnl.gov/) project allows researchers to perform injection experiments using waters of different temperature and composition pumped from other locations in the 300 Area groundwater plume. The variability permits scientists to probe migration pathways through the subsurface and examine factors that control uranium release from the historically contaminated sediments.

Time-based water level and composition data gathered from the robust geophysical and geochemical monitoring system will enable researchers to develop three-dimensional plume maps helping to develop improved uranium migration models.

The effort will provide a major breakthrough in understanding how the rhythmical rise and fall of the river interacts with the groundwater and uranium sources, according to Mike Thompson, DOE physical scientist.

"There is no quick fix or off-the-shelf approach for dealing with this particular plume of uranium contamination. We're using real-time field science to solve these complex cleanup issues," said Thompson. "Results from the monitoring array will help us better understand the complex dynamics of the groundwater and design technologies to stabilize or treat the contamination."

Hydrologic and geophysical characterization of the well field began in late August and will continue through the fall. Scientists have scheduled the first injection experiment for November, followed by a series of science experiments to study the fundamental workings of the local groundwater system.

Over the past year, PNNL scientists worked with Department of Energy contractor Fluor
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Contact: Geoff Harvey
Geoffrey.Harvey@pnl.gov
509-372-6083
DOE/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert  

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