Special cases of natural analogues: The Gabon and Cigar Lake U ore deposits
F. Gauthier-Lafaye, P. Stille, R. Bros, 2004. "Special cases of natural analogues: The Gabon and Cigar Lake U ore deposits", Energy, Waste and the Environment: a Geochemical Perspective, R. Gieré, P. Stille
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The Gabon and Cigar Lake uranium deposits may be used as natural analogues for nuclear waste because they both provide information on actinide immobilization in a geological system over a very long period of time. These deposits contain high-grade uranium ores (40–60% UO2) embedded in a clay matrix. Futhermore, the Oklo and Bangombé uranium deposits in Gabon were natural nuclear fission reactors that operated 2000 Ma ago. This offers the unique opportunity to study the behaviour of fission products and actinides in a geological environment. The geological stability of the sites is one of the most important parameters that can explain the preservation of the natural reactors of Gabon and of the Cigar Lake deposit. The mineralogy of the hosted rocks and the chemical composition of the fluids are likewise important parameters. It can be shown that clays, Fe-sulphides and organic matters provide effective redox buffering and consequently play an important role in the long-term preservation of the ores. Adsorption of actinides and fission products on clays and Ti-oxides is also an important process for retention of these elements. This process is even more efficient when it is followed by the formation of coffinite, USiO4·nH2O. Coffinitization is common at the Cigar Lake deposit and in the natural reactors of Gabon. Coffinitization may be related to hydrothermal alteration (Cigar Lake) and to weathering (Bangombé).
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This book provides incentives for further development of sustainable fuel cycles through a novel and interdisciplinary approach to an Earth science-related topic. The main focus is on geochemical concepts in immobilizing, isolating or neutralizing waste derived from energy production and consumption. The book also addresses the issue of using some types of energy-derived waste as alternative raw materials. Moreover, it highlights research on how certain wastes can be used for energy production, an increasingly important aspect of modern integrated waste management strategies. The main objectives are to: (a) identify the most serious environmental problems related to various types of power generation and associated waste accumulation; (b) present strategies, based on natural analogue materials, for the immobilization of toxic and radioactive waste components through mineralogical barriers; (c) discuss modern procedures for reuse of waste or certain waste components; and (d) review the importance of geochemical modelling in describing and predicting the interaction between waste and the environment.