Environmental Radiation Protection
(ERP) Curriculum

Environmental Geochemistry of Rads (3 hr)

Instructors: John Seaman and Gwen Geidel

Course Description:

Participants will develop a fundamental understanding of environmental speciation and mass transport of radioactive elements relevant to energy and nuclear weapons production; the disposition of waste derived from nuclear materials processing; the environmental impact of current and future generation nuclear reactor designs; nuclear fuel reprocessing techniques (open vs. closed fuel cycles); and the design and development of both short- and long-term radioactive waste treatment/containment strategies (extraction, vitrification, etc.). Class discussion and computer problem sets will focus both on longstanding empirical methods of estimating exposure hazard and predicting radionuclide behavior in the environment, and more-recent mechanistic approaches as applied to remedial action design and the responsible protection of the environment and public health. In addition to the transuranics (Pu, Np, etc.), significant lecture time will be reserved for radionuclides of particular academic and environmental importance, e.g., 3H, 137Cs, 90Sr, 99Tc, and 222Rn.

Class Schedule and Grading:

The geochemistry class will consist of 12-13 two-hour lecture periods, with 2-3 lecture periods reserved for class tours. A series of problem sets, generally computer modeling exercises illustrating concepts discussed in lecture or introduced during the class field trips, will be assigned periodically with some time at the end of each lecture period devoted to the modeling exercises sets. Students will be encouraged to work together on the problem assignments. Computers and the required public domain software (i.e., MINTEQA2, STANMOD, PHREEQC, HYDRUS1D, RESRAD, etc.) or proprietary software (i.e., HP1, Geochemists Workbench, etc.) will be available. Modeling exercises will focus on the impact of variable chemical conditions on radionuclide speciation and partitioning rather than becoming proficient with a specific hydro-geochemical software package. Given the complexity of the subject matter, the last lecture period of the week will be dedicated to a review of introduced concepts and problem assignments for the week. A half-hour exam will be given at the end of each class week. Each exam will be worth approximately 25% of the grade, with class participation and problem assignments accounting for the final 25%.


Chem I and II, Calculus I and II, Biol I, Introductory Soil Science or Geochemistry, or approval from instructor

Course Innovation

In addition to class lectures and computer modeling exercises, a minimum of two SRS-based field trips will be included in the curriculum. A trip to the SRS General Separations Area will be used to illustrate various aspects associated with low-level nuclear waste disposal and the fate and transport of various waste-derived radionuclides in the environment. The tour will include the Old-Rad Waste Burial Grounds, the capped F- & H-Area seepage basins, the deactivated pump-and-treat remediation system, the in situ pH adjustment remediation system, and the contaminated seepage outcrops (i.e., F- and H-area tree kill zones) along a tributary to the Savannah River. The second field trip will be a tour of the SRS Mixed Oxide (MOX) Fuel Fabrication Facility currently under construction. Field trip manuals will be developed to document each destination and augment class discussion.

Preliminary Course Schedule:

Week 1:
MondayIntroduction to Radiochemistry: Sources and Types of Radioactivity (α, β, γ decay and fission); Thermodynamics and Chemical Equilibria
TuesdayThermodynamics and Chemical Equilibria (contd.); Chemical Kinetics; Redox Reactions
WednesdayTour: SRS Mixed Oxide (MOX) Fuel Fabrication Facility
ThursdayUranium Geochemistry and Decay Series (238U: 230Th, 226Ra, 222Rn), U Mining and Extraction; U Mine Tailings; Co-contaminant
Problem Set 1: Aqueous-Phase U Speciation: pe, pH and pCO2
FridayWeekly Lecture Review; Exam 1
Week 2:
MondayReactive Surfaces (clays, oxides, zeolites, NOM, etc.)
TuesdaySolute Partitioning: Empirical (e.g., Langmuir, Freundlich, Kd, etc.) vs Mechanistic Descriptions (e.g., SCM)
Problem Set 2: Solute Partitioning
WednesdayTour: SRS General Separations Area: Old Rad Waste Burial Ground, Capped F- & H-Area Seepage Basins and down-gradient tree-kill areas, Mixed-Waste Management Facility (MWMF) (Tour references Greenwood et al., 1990; Hitchcock et al., 2005; Seaman et al., 2007)
ThursdayFlow and Transport Processes: Dispersion, Partitioning, and Decay
Problem Set 3: Conservative and Reactive Solute Transport-Distinguishing Chemical and Physical Transport Processes
FridayWeekly Lecture Review; Exam 2
Week 3:
MondayFlow and Transport Processes (Contd.)
Problem Set 4: Multi-Component Transport Simulation
TuesdayClosed (239Pu and 235U recovery) vs Open Nuclear Fuel Cycle; Purex Recovery Technology
WednesdayTour: Virgil C. Summer Nuclear Station, SCE&G
ThursdayShort- and Long-Term Nuclear Waste Issues
FridayClass Review; Comprehensive Final Exam

For registration information contact Dr. John Seaman, seaman(at)srel.uga.edu.