The effect of thermodynamic data on computer model predictions of uranium speciation in natural water systems
Computer models have found widespread application in order to help elucidate and predict changes in environmental systems. One such application is the prediction of trace metal speciation in aqueous systems. This is achieved by solving a set of non-linear equations involving equilibrium constants for all the components in the system, within mass and charge balance constraints. In this study a comparison of the predicted uranium speciation from two computer programs, WHAM and PHREEQCI, is used to illustrate the effect variations in thermodynamic data can have on the models produced. Using the original thermodynamic data provided with the models, WHAM predicted the UO22+ ion as the major species (84%) while PHREEQCI predicted UO2(HPO4)22− as the major species (86%). Substituting uranium data from the Nuclear Energy Agency Thermochemical Database project (NEA-TDB) into both programs produced similar results from each program, with UO2F+ predicted to dominate (68%) in a groundwater sample. Natural water samples often contain humic substances. The possible interaction of such substances with uranium was also modelled. The WHAM program includes a discreet site electrostatic humic substance model, however in order to use the PHREEQCI program to model humic substance interactions, a ‘model fulvic acid’ dataset was added to the program. These models predicted 85 to 98% uranium-humic substance species at neutral pH. This indicates that humic substances do need to be taken into account when modelling uranium speciation in natural water samples.