Abstract

The concentration of uranium has been measured using the fission track technique in vadose and freshwater phreatic cements from South Joulters Cay, in The Bahamas. These analyses reveal dramatic differences in the U concentration of vadose (< 0.28 + or - 0.11 ppm) and freshwater phreatic (1.80 + or - .75 ppm) cements. This distinctive change in concentration is proposed to result from 1) variations in the CO 2 of the waters of the phreatic and vadose environments, and 2) selective exclusion of U during the precipitation of calcite. The pCO 2 is important because it controls the pH and hence the concentration of CO 3 (super 2-) ions in the pore fluids as well as the amount of dissolution of the U rich aragonitic precursors. For example, an increase in pCO 2 will lower the pH and decrease the concentration of CO 3 (super 2-) present in the porewaters. As the U, present as the uranyl ion (UO 2 (super 2+) ), is mainly complexed with CO 3 (super 2-) , a decrease in the concentration of CO 3 (super 2-) will not only alter the speciation of U but also increase the UO 2 (CO 3 ) 2 (super 2-) / CO 3 (super 2-) ratio of the fluid and hence the concentration of U in the precipitated carbonate cements. The second mechanism for explaining the increase of U in phreatic cements relies on the low distribution coefficient for the incorporation of U into low-Mg calcite (LMC). The precipitation of LMC therefore leads to an increase in the concentration of U in the residual solution. As fluids do not remain in the vadose zone, but rather accumulate in the freshwater phreatic portion of the lens, phreatic waters become relatively enriched in U compared to vadose fluids. The clear difference in the U concentrations of cements in these two zones may enable the U concentration of cements to be used as an indicator of paleo-water tables in ancient rocks even where other geochemical and petrographic evidences are equivocal.

You do not currently have access to this article.