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[EPSRC iCASE] Management of 90Sr Contamination in Groundwaters at Sellafield: In situ Phosphate Mineralisation Approaches

Project Description

This research project will, building on our extensive expertise in remediation research, explore the mechanisms of Sr retention during phosphate mineralisation treatments in Sellafield relevant sediment and groundwater experiments. Initially, the three different treatment regimens will be tested in batch experiments to explore Sr speciation and fate in model experiments using freshly sampled Sellafield site sediments with their indigenous microbial communities. These experiments will be examined throughout the mineralisation processes using geochemical (aqueous analysis, sequential extraction), imaging (electron microscopy), microbial ecology and spectroscopic (X-ray absorption spectroscopy) approaches to define contaminant, specifically Sr, speciation and fate in the treated sediments with a focus on defining sorption and/or incorporation of Sr (Cleary et al., 2019). Here, understanding the typical site conditions and likely groundwater conditions will be key in understanding the mechanisms of mineralisation. The next phase of experiments will build complexity by examining Sr removal under flowing column conditions and from our past experience in flowing column systems (e.g. Thorpe et al., 2017). Here, we will take a highly selective approach pursuing the most promising treatment regimens from batch experiments to explore Sr speciation and fate during active mineralisation. These experiments also offer the possibility to examine the stability of Sr associated sediments prepared from batch experiments, specifically exploring reversibility of Sr binding over extended periods. Latterly, NNL and Sellafield have suggested the exiting possibility of examining Sr behaviour on exposure of materials to real site conditions in boreholes. Access to the Sellafield boreholes would be a first of a kind in the UK for research projects of this type and offers significant gearing to the research project. The aim would be to emplace samples and allow them to react over extended timeframes of months. The samples would then be retrieved and shipped under controlled conditions back to the Manchester laboratories for further characterisation and analysis using the range of approaches described. This would provide a bridge between the laboratory and field scale.
Overall, this project offers exciting opportunities to develop a mechanistic understanding of Sr speciation and fate during in situ remediation approaches tailored to Sellafield site conditions. The approach will link geochemical, microbiological and mineralogical analyses with imaging and spectroscopic approaches to define mechanisms of Sr interaction in batch, column and even Sellafield site regimes.


Cleary, A, Newsome, L, Shaw, S, Lloyd, J, Boothman, C, Boshoff, G, Atherton, N & Morris, K 2019, 'Bioremediation of Strontium and Technetium Contaminated Groundwater using Glycerol Phosphate', Chemical Geology.

Newsome, L, Morris, K & Lloyd, J 2014, 'The biogeochemistry and bioremediation of uranium and other priority radionuclides', Chemical Geology, vol. 363, pp. 164-184.,

Thorpe, C, Law, G, Lloyd, J, Williams, H, Atherton, N & Morris, K 2017, 'Quantifying technetium and strontium bioremediation potential in flowing sediment columns.', Environmental Science and Technology.

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FTE Category A staff submitted: 42.13

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