Dissolved uranium, radium and radon evolution in the Continental Intercalaire aquifer, Algeria and Tunisia

Trevor Elliot, Daniel Marcos Bonotto, John Napier Andrews

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    Abstract

    Natural, dissolved 238U-series radionuclides (U, 226Ra, 222Rn) and activity ratios (A.R.s: 234U/238U; 228Ra/226Ra) in Continental Intercalaire (CI) groundwaters and limited samples from the overlying Complexe Terminal (CT) aquifers of Algeria and Tunisia are discussed alongside core measurements for U/Th (and K) in the contexts of radiological water quality, geochemical controls in the aquifer, and water residence times. A redox barrier is characterised downgradient in the Algerian CI for which a trend of increasing 234U/238U A.R.s with decreasing U-contents due to recoil-dominated 234U solution under reducing conditions allows residence time modelling ∼500 ka for the highest enhanced A.R. = 3.17. Geochemical modelling therefore identifies waters towards the centre of the Grand Erg Oriental basin as palaeowaters in line with reported 14C and 36Cl ages. A similar 234U/238U trend is evidenced in a few of the Tunisian CI waters. The paleoage status of these waters is affirmed by both noble gas recharge temperatures and simple modelling of dissolved, radiogenic 4He-contents both for sampled Algerian and Tunisian CI and CT waters. For the regions studied these waters therefore should be regarded as “fossil” waters and treated effectively as a non-renewable resource.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)150-162
    Number of pages13
    JournalJournal of Environmental Radioactivity
    Volume137
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2014

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