Unconventional shale gas exploitation presents complex problems in terms of radioactive waste disposal. Large volumes of saline produced water resulting from hydraulic fracturing are typically enriched in radium isotopes, up to several hundred Bq/dm3
, orders of magnitude above national discharge limits. There is a need, therefore, to decontaminate the fluid prior to discharge, preferably by creating a less problematic radium-containing, solid waste form. Barite (barium sulphate) co-precipitation is a cost-effective method for achieving these objectives, provided the process can be controlled. In this work, radium recovery of ~90% has been achieved for simulant produced waters containing 100 Bq/dm3
, using a single, optimised co-precipitation step. However, salinity has a significant effect on the efficiency of the process; higher salinity solutions requiring substantially more reagent to achieve the same recovery. If >90% radium removal is sought, multiple co-precipitation steps provide a much faster alternative than post-precipitation recrystallization of the barite solid phase, albeit at higher cost. The resulting solid waste has a relatively high specific radium activity but a much smaller volume, which presents a less intractable disposal problem for site operators than large volumes of radium-contaminated fluid.
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