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Open AccessArticle

Occurrence and Distribution of Uranium in a Hydrological Cycle around a Uranium Mill Tailings Pond, Southern China

Fundamental Science on Radioactive Geology and Exploration Technology Laboratory, East China University of Technology, NanChang 330013, China
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Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(3), 773; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17030773
Received: 3 December 2019 / Revised: 17 January 2020 / Accepted: 22 January 2020 / Published: 26 January 2020
Uranium (U) mining activities, which lead to contamination in soils and waters (i.e., leachate from U mill tailings), cause serious environmental problems. However, limited research works have been conducted on U pollution associated with a whole soil-water system. In this study, a total of 110 samples including 96 solid and 14 water samples were collected to investigate the characteristics of U distribution in a natural soil-water system near a U mining tailings pond. Results showed that U concentrations ranged from 0.09 ± 0.02 mg/kg to 2.56 × 104± 23 mg/kg in solid samples, and varied greatly in different locations. For tailings sand samples, the highest U concentration (2.56× 104 ± 23 mg/kg) occurred at the depth of 80 cm underground, whereas, for paddy soil samples, the highest U concentration (5.22 ± 0.04 mg/kg) was found at surface layers. Geo-accumulation index and potential ecological hazard index were calculated to assess the hazard of U in the soils. The calculation results showed that half of the soil sampling sites were moderately polluted. For groundwater samples, U concentrations ranged from 0.55 ± 0.04 mg/L to 3.36 ± 0.02 mg/L with a mean value of 2.36 ± 0.36 mg/L, which was significantly lower than that of percolating waters (ranging from 4.56 ± 0.02 mg/L to 12.05 ± 0.04 mg/L, mean 7.91 ± 0.98 mg/L). The results of this study suggest that the distribution of U concentrations in a soil-water system was closely associated with hydrological cycles and U concentrations decreased with circulation path. View Full-Text
Keywords: water–rock interactions; critical zones; uranium contamination; Aquifer; hazard assessment water–rock interactions; critical zones; uranium contamination; Aquifer; hazard assessment
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Ma, W.; Gao, B.; Guo, Y.; Sun, Z.; Zhang, Y.; Chen, G.; Zhu, X.; Zhang, C. Occurrence and Distribution of Uranium in a Hydrological Cycle around a Uranium Mill Tailings Pond, Southern China. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17, 773.

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