Document Type Master's Dissertation Author Van Wyk, Yazeed firstname.lastname@example.org URN etd-06242011-155219 Document Title Transport mechanisms of uranium and thorium in fractured rock aquifers Degree MSc Department Geology Supervisor
Advisor Name Title Mr M A Dippenaar Co-Supervisor Prof J L Van Rooy Co-Supervisor Prof K T Witthueser Supervisor Keywords
- Beaufort West
- fractured rock aquifer
- transport mechanisms
- tracer test
- pumping test
- flow conceptualisation
Date 2011-04-05 Availability unrestricted AbstractThe Karoo has been receiving considerable attention since the early 1970’s when uranium mining was at its peak, with numerous research studies being instigated to look at all aspects of uranium mining. It has recently been observed that there seems to be resurgence in uranium exploration in and around the town of Beaufort West. A study on the transport mechanisms of uranium and thorium in fractured-rock aquifers, initiated in the hope of understanding the actual processes controlling radionuclide mobilisation, is reported here. Hydrochemical investigations of the various boreholes were sampled for water quality in June, 2009. The hydrochemical description is typical of shallow fresh groundwater, changing composition to a more sulphate hydrochemical facies along the flow path. While the geochemistry of groundwater in the study area seems to have minimal effects on uranium concentrations, the low levels of uranium in boreholes sampled suggest the importance of hydrological and lithological variability on the measured concentrations. Nevertheless, the uranium concentration is within the recommended levels as specified in the US-EPA, WHO and SA water quality guidelines and thus poses no immediate threat to the general public. Analysis of pumping and tracer tests, reveals that the fractured-rock aquifer can be highly transmissive and that transport can take place via multiple flow paths having different hydraulic properties. Tracer diffusing into stagnant water zones within fracture asperities and the rock matrix are seen as an important retardation mechanism, that has implications for remediation should the aquifer be contaminated by radionuclides. In terms of conceptualising flow at a local scale, aperture sizes ranging from (563-828ìm) along with high flow velocities (1.90E-03m/s), points to the importance of bedding-plane fractures as conduits of groundwater flow. The groundwater flow has been influenced by dolerite dykes creating compartments isolated from each other, suggesting a highly complex aquifer system. Based on the conceptual model, it is shown that these structures can create unique, site specific flow conditions. The integration of all available data into the conceptual model provides an effective research tool that can be built upon as a basis for further research.
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Please cite as follows:
Van Wyk, Y 2010, Transport mechanisms of uranium and thorium in fractured rock aquifers, MSc dissertation, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, viewed yymmdd < http://upetd.up.ac.za/thesis/available/etd-06242011-155219/ >
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