Evaluating the Source and Use of Radon for Exploring Deeply Buried Uranium Deposits

Title: Evaluating the Source and Use of Radon for Exploring Deeply Buried Uranium Deposits
Authors: Dudek, Nickolas
Date: 2017
Abstract: This project’s goal is to evaluate the use of groundwater Rn as a tool for the search of deeply buried U deposits. To do so, the concentrations of major cations, anions, Rn, 4He, and 3H were measured in groundwater. Additionally, the abundance, composition, and distribution of radionuclides (U, Ra, 206Pb, 207Pb, 208Pb), were measured in soil and sandstone above the Denison Mines’ Phoenix Deposit (located at a depth of ~450 m). Rn was extracted from groundwater using mineral oil, and higher groundwater Rn radioactivity (average 0.13 Bq/g of water, n=10) was found in drill holes within ~100 meters of the Phoenix Deposit’s surface projection than in distal holes (average 0.072 Bq/g of oil, n=4). High Rn radioactivity is independent of the drill holes’ intersection with U ore, indicating that drilling did not transport significant amounts of Rn or parent isotopes to shallow depths. The water table is commonly within the Dunlop Member of the Athabasca sandstones, and groundwater Rn is positively correlated with average U concentrations obtained by modified aqua regia digestion of sandstones (analytical code 2AMS at the Saskatchewan Research Council) and also positively correlated with U in three-acid digestion of sandstones (analytical code 3AMS at the Saskatchewan Research Council). Diffusion models show Rn cannot travel significant distances, and so Rn is likely produced in MFd from the in-situ decay of U and Ra. 226Ra radioactivity was measured for B horizon soil samples (n=39) and sandstone samples (n=20) after a HCl leach followed with BaSO4 precipitation. An extraction efficiency for Ra of 28.2%±3.8%. was determined by comparing the soil BaSO4 precipitation procedure against unprocessed soils. Ra radioactivity in B horizon soil is lower than expected from U contents determined with INAA. Ra radioactivity is comparable to the values expected from INAA U concentrations (n=17) in sandstone, with exception to 4 Dunlop Member samples and 2 samples in the Read Formation and Bird Member. Ra in 4 of 5 samples in the Dunlop Member are 10-50% overabundant, perhaps resulting from Ra percolating downwards from soil. The proposed interpretation is consistent with lower than expected Ra radioactivity of B horizon soil. Ra is 260% and 420% overabundant in the two samples from the Read Formation and the Bird Member (1 each), suggesting upward migration of Ra from the U deposit. Low solute concentration and a neutral-weakly alkaline pH of shallow groundwater in the study area appears to prevent significant travel of Ra ions through groundwater by means of ion absorption competition. Pb isotopic compositions were determined using an ICP-MS for sandstones and soil via three different leaches; 0.02 N HBr, 2.7 N HCl, and concentrated HBr. Overall, Pb isotopic compositions of MFd (n=5) and B horizon (n=10) are similar, supporting the percolation of acidic surface waters through soil. One sample from RD (among 4 samples) show high 206Pb, suggesting an upward migration of 206Pb from the deposit. The ratios of 4He/3He in ground water ranged between 0.95-1.07; typical of groundwater-atmosphere interaction. The lateral flow of groundwater at deep levels can explain the absence of higher 4He/3He.
URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10393/36187
CollectionThèses, 2011 - // Theses, 2011 -
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