Simulating bioremediation of uranium-contaminated aquifers; uncertainty assessment of model parameters

S. Wang, Peter R. Jaffe, G. Li, S. W. Wang, Herschel Albert Rabitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Bioremediation of trace metals and radionuclides in groundwater may require the manipulation of redox conditions via the injection of a carbon source. For example, after nitrate has been reduced, soluble U(VI) can be reduced simultaneously with other electron acceptors such as Fe(III) or sulfate to U(IV), which may precipitate as a solid (uraninite). To simulate the numerous biogeochemical processes that will occur during the bioremediation of trace-metal-contaminated aquifers, a time-dependent one-dimensional reactive transport model has been developed. The model consists of a set of coupled mass balance equations, accounting for advection, hydrodynamic dispersion, and a kinetic formulation of the biological or chemical transformations affecting an organic substrate, electron acceptors, corresponding reduced species, and trace metal contaminants of interest, uranium in this study. This set of equations is solved numerically, using a finite difference approximation. The redox conditions of the domain are characterized by estimating the pE, based on the concentration of the dominant terminal electron acceptor and its corresponding reduced species. This pE and the concentrations of relevant species are then used by a modified version of MINTEQA2, which calculates the speciation/sorption and precipitation/dissolution of the species of interest under equilibrium conditions. Kinetics of precipitation/dissolution processes are described as being proportional to the difference between the actual and calculated equilibrium concentration. A global uncertainty assessment, determined by Random Sampling High Dimensional Model Representation (RS-HDMR), was performed to attain a phenomenological understanding of the origins of output variability and to suggest input parameter refinements as well as to provide guidance for field experiments to improve the quality of the model predictions. By decomposing the model output variance into its different input contributions, RS-HDMR can identify the model inputs with the most influence on various model outputs, as well as their behavior pattern on the model output. Simulations are performed to illustrate the effect of biostimulation on the fate of uranium in a saturated aquifer, and to identify the key processes that need to be characterized with the highest accuracy prior to designing a uranium bioremediation scheme.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)283-307
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Contaminant Hydrology
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Jul 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Environmental Chemistry


  • Bioremediation
  • Groundwater
  • Modeling
  • Uncertainty analysis
  • Uranium


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