DOE commits $27.5M for uranium contaminant transport field studies

RICHLAND, Wash. The Department of Energy recently granted Pacific Northwest National Laboratory $27.5 million dollars over 5 years to investigate the movement of contaminated groundwater at sites in Washington and Colorado. These two field research studies are funded by DOE's Office of Science and are intended to identify new approaches and strategies to help resolve questions about the movement of subsurface contaminants.

PNNL will lead the field studies at the Hanford Site in Richland, Wash., and at a uranium mill tailings site in Rifle, Colo.

The Hanford study involves characterization and instrumentation of field sites to investigate the groundwater and the vadose zone - or the subsurface soil and rock just above the groundwater - both of which are contaminated by uranium. The study area is adjacent to the Columbia River and located near the southern boundary of the Hanford Site, north of Richland.

PNNL Project Manager John Zachara says the field study at Hanford is perfectly suited for closely examining the processes controlling uranium migration in a complex subsurface environment. "It brings to bear the best science available, and will help us resolve questions about the movement of subsurface contaminants at Hanford and other DOE sites."

The five-year research project will help develop transport models that will be relevant and applicable to contaminant movement along the entire Columbia River corridor, according to Zachara. A team of scientists from PNNL and researchers from three other DOE laboratories, four universities and the U.S. Geological Survey are involved. DOE contractor Fluor Hanford is responsible for remediating the groundwater and deep vadose zone in this area.

The Hanford field study complements investments by the DOE Office of Environmental Management to investigate an innovative cleanup approach for the uranium. "It's a collaborative effort that benefits both endeavors," Zach

Contact: Geoff Harvey
DOE/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

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