The sorption of niobium (Nb) was investigated on humus and mineral soil samples taken from various depths of a four-metre deep forest soil pit on Olkiluoto Island, southwestern Finland. Mass distribution coefficients, Kd, were determined in batch sorption tests. The steady state of Nb sorption was observed in the mineral soil samples already after one week of equilibration, and sorption decreased with depth from a very high value of 185000 mL/g at 0.7 m to 54000 mL/g at 3.4 m. The reason behind this decrease is probably the tenfold reduction in the specific surface area of the soil at the same depth range. Distribution coefficients were clearly lower in the humus layer (1000 mL/g). The Kd values determined in pure water at a pH range of 4.7–6.5 were at a high level (above 55000 mL/g), but decreased dramatically above pH 6.5, corresponding to the change in the major Nb species from the neutral Nb(OH)5 to the low-sorbing anionic Nb(OH)6− and Nb(OH)72−. However, the Kd values in the model soil solution were in the slightly alkaline range an order of magnitude higher than in pure water, which is probably caused by the formation of calcium niobate surface precipitate or electrostatic interaction between surface-sorbed calcium and solute Nb. Among nine soil constituent minerals kaolinite performed best in retaining Nb in both pure water and model soil solution at pH 8, whereas potassium feldspar showed the poorest sorption. The Kd value for kaolinite was above 500000 mL/g in both solutions, while the respective potassium feldspar values were in the range of 120–220 mL/g.
The authors wish to thank Posiva Oy for funding this study as a part of the research programme for a spent nuclear fuel repository.
©2015 Walter de Gruyter Berlin/Boston