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Spatially resolved sorption of Cm(III) on crystalline rock: influence of surface roughness and mineralogy

Demnitz, M.; Molodtsov, K.; Schymura, S.; Schierz, A.; Müller, K.; Schmidt, M.


Many countries will use deep geological repositories to dispose of highly active nuclear waste. Crystalline rock is a potential host rock because of its strong geotechnical stability, low permeability and low solubility; however, its inherent mineralogy is heterogeneous, consisting of a wide set of minerals in varying amounts. Therefore, there is a need for using sophisticated techniques that allow spatial resolution to characterize the nanostructure of such crystalline rock surfaces and the speciation of the actinides therein. As a representative for trivalent actinides, such as Am(III), Np(III), and Pu(III), which are expected to be present due to the reducing conditions encountered in a deep geological repository, we have chosen the actinide Cm(III). Cm(III) possesses excellent luminescence properties, which allows us to not only examine the sorption uptake but also the speciation of Cm(III) on the surface.

We combined spatially resolved investigation techniques, such as vertical scanning interferometry, calibrated autoradiography, and Raman microscopy coupled to micro-focus time-resolved laser-induced luminescence spectroscopy (µTRLFS) (Molodtsov et al., 2019). Thus, we were able to correlate mineralogy, surface roughness, and grain boundary effects with radionuclide speciation, allowing us to identify important radionuclide retention processes and parameters.

Investigations focused on granite from Eibenstock (Germany) and migmatised gneiss from Bukov (Czech Republic). Cm(III) sorption on the rock's constituting minerals – primarily feldspar, mica and quartz – was analyzed quantitatively and qualitatively. We observed that Cm(III) sorption uptake and speciation depends not only on the mineral phase but also the surface roughness (Demnitz et al., 2021). An increasing surface roughness leads to higher sorption uptake and a stronger coordination of the sorbed Cm(III). On the same mineral grains sorption differed significantly depending if an area exhibits a low or high surface roughness. In the case that one mineral phase dominates the sorption process, sorption of Cm(III) on other mineral phases will only occur at strong binding sites, typically where surface roughness is high. Areas of feldspar and quartz with high surface roughness additionally showed the formation of sorption species with particularly high sorption strength that could either be interpreted as Cm(III) incorporation species or ternary complexes on the mineral surface (Demnitz et al., 2021).

We conclude that in addition to mineral composition, surface roughness needs to be adequately considered to describe interfacial speciation of contaminants and respective retention patterns for the safety assessments of nuclear waste repositories.

Demnitz, M., Molodtsov, K., Schymura, S., Schierz, A., Müller, K., Jankovsky, F., Havlova, V., Stumpf, T., and Schmidt, M.: Effects of surface roughness and mineralogy on the sorption of Cm(III) on crystalline rock, J. Hazard. Mater. Pt. A, 423, 127006,, 2021.  

Molodtsov, K., Schymura, S., Rothe, J., Dardenne, K., and Schmidt, M.: Sorption of Eu(III) on Eibenstock granite studied by µTRLFS: A novel spatially-resolved luminescence-spectroscopic technique, Sci. Rep.-UK, 9, 6287,, 2019. 

Keywords: luminescence; speciation; Cm; host rock; interface; crystalline; roughness; topography; microscopy; spatial

  • Open Access Logo Lecture (Conference)
    Interdisciplinary research symposium On the safety of nuclear disposal practices 2021, 10.-12.11.2021, Berlin, Germany
    DOI: 10.5194/sand-1-145-2021