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Leaching behavior of U, Mn, Sr, and Pb from different particle-size fractions of uranium mill tailings

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Pollution by the release of heavy metals from tailings constitutes a potential threat to the environment. To characterize the processes governing the release of Mn, Sr, Pb, and U from the uranium mill tailings, a dynamic leaching test was applied for different size of uranium mill tailings samples. Inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectroscopy (ICP-AES) and inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) were performed to determine the content of Mn, Sr, Pb, and U in the leachates. The release of mobile Mn, Sr, Pb, and U fraction was slow, being faster in the initial stage and then attained a near steady-state condition. The experimental results demonstrate that the release of Mn, Sr, Pb, and U from uranium mill tailings with different size fractions is controlled by a variety of mechanisms. Surface wash-off is the release mechanism for Mn. The main release mechanism of Sr and Pb is the dissolution in the initial leaching stage. For U, a mixed process of wash-off and diffusion is the controlling mechanism.

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The study is funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 41372052).

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Correspondence to Tongjiang Peng.

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Responsible editor: Georg Steinhauser

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Liu, B., Peng, T. & Sun, H. Leaching behavior of U, Mn, Sr, and Pb from different particle-size fractions of uranium mill tailings. Environ Sci Pollut Res 24, 15804–15815 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-017-8921-9

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  • Uranium mill tailings
  • Release behavior
  • Adsorption
  • Desorption
  • Mineral dissolution