Detecting the near-surface redox front in crystalline bedrock using fracture mineral distribution, geochemistry and U-series disequilibrium Journal Article uri icon

DCO ID 11121/3694-3230-4958-4176-CC

in language

  • eng

year of publication

  • 2009


  • Oxidizing conditions normally prevail in surface waters and near-surface groundwaters, but there is usually a change to reducing conditions in groundwater at greater depth. Dissolved O(2) originally present is consumed through biogenic and inorganic reactions along the flow paths. Fracture minerals participate in these reactions and the fracture mineralogy and geochemistry can be used to trace the redox front. An important task in the safety assessment of a potential repository for the disposal of nuclear waste in crystalline bedrock, at an approximate depth of 500 m in Sweden, is to demonstrate that reducing conditions can be maintained for a long period of time. Oxygen may damage the Cu canisters that host nuclear waste; additionally, in the event of a canister failure, oxidizing conditions may increase the mobility of some radionuclides. The present study of the near-surface redox front is based on mineralogical (redox-sensitive minerals), geochemical (redox-sensitive elements) and U-series disequilibrium investigations of mineral coatings along open fractures. The fractures have been sampled along drill cores from closely spaced, 100 m deep boreholes, which were drilled during the site investigation work in the Laxemar area, south-eastern Sweden, carried out by the Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Co. (SKB). The distribution of the redox-sensitive minerals pyrite and goethite in open fractures shows that the redox front (switch from mainly goethite to mainly pyrite in the fractures) generally occurs at about 15-20 m depth. Calcite leaching by recharging water is indicated in the upper 20-30 m and positive Ce-anomalies suggest oxidation of Ce down to 20 m depth. The U-series radionuclides show disequilibrium in most of the samples, indicating mobility of U during the last 1 Ma. In the upper 20 m, U is mainly removed (due to oxidation) or has experienced complex removal and/or deposition. At depths of 3555 m. both deposition and removal of U are indicated. Below 55 m, recent deposition of U is generally indicated which suggests removal of U near surface (oxidation) and deposition of U below the redox front. Scattered goethite occurrences below the general redox front (down to ca 80 m) and signs of U removal at 35-55 m mostly correlate with sections of high transmissivity (and/or high fracture frequencies). This shows that highly transmissive fractures are generally required to allow oxygenated groundwaters at depth greater than ca 30 m. Removal of U (oxidation) below 55 m within the last 300 ka is not observed. Although penetration of glacial waters to great depths has been confirmed in the study area, their potential O(2) load seems to have been reduced near the surface. (C) 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


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