The Geochemistry of Technetium: A Summary of the Behavior of an Artificial Element in the Natural Environment

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Interest in the chemistry of technetium has only increased since its discovery in 1937, mainly because of the large and growing inventory of 99Tc generated during fission of 235U, its environmental mobility in oxidizing conditions, and its potential radiotoxicity. For every ton of enriched uranium fuel (3% 235U) that is consumed at a typical burn-up rate, nearly 1 kg of 99Tc is generated. Thus, the mass of 99Tc produced since 1993 has nearly quadrupled, and will likely to continue to increase if more emphasis is placed on nuclear power to slow the accumulation of atmospheric greenhouse gases. In order to ... continued below

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Icenhower, Jonathan P.; Qafoku, Nikolla; Martin, Wayne J. & Zachara, John M. December 1, 2008.

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Interest in the chemistry of technetium has only increased since its discovery in 1937, mainly because of the large and growing inventory of 99Tc generated during fission of 235U, its environmental mobility in oxidizing conditions, and its potential radiotoxicity. For every ton of enriched uranium fuel (3% 235U) that is consumed at a typical burn-up rate, nearly 1 kg of 99Tc is generated. Thus, the mass of 99Tc produced since 1993 has nearly quadrupled, and will likely to continue to increase if more emphasis is placed on nuclear power to slow the accumulation of atmospheric greenhouse gases. In order to gain a comprehensive understanding of the interaction of 99Tc and the natural environment, we review the sources of 99Tc in the nuclear fuel cycle, its chemical properties, radiochemistry, and biogeochemical behavior. We include an evaluation of the use of Re as a chemical analog of Tc, as well as a summary of the redox potential, thermodynamics, sorption, colloidal behavior, and interaction of humic substances with Tc, and the potential for re-oxidation and remobilization of Tc(IV). What emerges is a more complicated picture of Tc behavior than that of an easily tractable transition of Tc(VII) to Tc(IV) with consequent immobilization. Reducing conditions (+200 to +100 mV Eh) are generally thought necessary to cause reduction of Tc(VII) to Tc(IV), but far more important are the presence of reducing agents, such as Fe(II) sorbed onto mineral grains. Catalysis of Tc(VII) by surface-mediated Fe(II) will bring the mobile Tc(VII) species to a lower oxidation state and will form the relatively insoluble Tc(IV)O2∙nH2O, but even as a solid, equilibrium concentrations of aqueous Tc are nearly a factor of 20× above the EPA set drinking water standards. However, sequestration of Tc(IV) into Fe(III)-bearing phases, such as goethite or other hydrous oxyhydroxides of iron, may ameliorate concerns over the mobility of Tc. Further, the outcome of many studies on terrestrial and marine sediments that are oxidizing overall indicate that Tc is relatively immobile, due to formation of oxygen-depleted microenvironments that develop in response to bacteriological activities. The rate of re-mobilization of Tc from these microenvironments is just beginning to be assessed, but with no firm consensus. Reassessment of the simple models in which Tc is mobilized and immobilized is therefore urged.

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  • Report No.: PNNL-18139
  • Grant Number: AC05-76RL01830
  • DOI: 10.2172/1010487 | External Link
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 1010487
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc832572

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  • December 1, 2008

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • May 19, 2016, 3:16 p.m.

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  • Nov. 28, 2016, 6:32 p.m.

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Icenhower, Jonathan P.; Qafoku, Nikolla; Martin, Wayne J. & Zachara, John M. The Geochemistry of Technetium: A Summary of the Behavior of an Artificial Element in the Natural Environment, report, December 1, 2008; Richland, Washington. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc832572/: accessed August 19, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.