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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 10, 2024
  2. We investigated the mechanisms of uranium (U) uptake by Tamarix (salt cedars) growing along the Rio Paguate, which flows throughout the Jackpile mine near Pueblo de Laguna, New Mexico. Tamarix were selected for this study due to the detection of U in the roots and shoots of field collected plants (0.6–58.9 mg kg −1 ), presenting an average bioconcentration factor greater than 1. Synchrotron-based micro X-ray fluorescence analyses of plant roots collected from the field indicate that the accumulation of U occurs in the cortex of the root. The mechanisms for U accumulation in the roots of Tamarix were further investigated in controlled-laboratory experiments where living roots of field plants were macerated for 24 h or 2 weeks in a solution containing 100 μM U. The U concentration in the solution decreased 36–59% after 24 h, and 49–65% in two weeks. Microscopic and spectroscopic analyses detected U precipitation in the root cell walls near the xylems of the roots, confirming the initial results from the field samples. High-resolution TEM was used to study the U fate inside the root cells, and needle-like U–P nanocrystals, with diameter <7 nm, were found entrapped inside vacuoles in cells. EXAFS shell-by-shell fitting suggest thatmore »U is associated with carbon functional groups. The preferable binding of U to the root cell walls may explain the U retention in the roots of Tamarix , followed by U–P crystal precipitation, and pinocytotic active transport and cellular entrapment. This process resulted in a limited translocation of U to the shoots in Tamarix plants. This study contributes to better understanding of the physicochemical mechanisms affecting the U uptake and accumulation by plants growing near contaminated sites.« less
  3. The crystal chemistry of carnotite (prototype formula: K2(UO2)2(VO4)2·3H2O) occurring in mine wastes collected from Northeastern Arizona was investigated by integrating spectroscopy, electron microscopy, and x-ray diffraction analyses. Raman spectroscopy confirms that the uranyl vanadate phase present in the mine waste is carnotite, rather than the rarer polymorph vandermeerscheite. X-ray diffraction patterns of the carnotite occurring in these mine wastes are in agreement with those reported in the literature for a synthetic analog. Carbon detected in this carnotite was identified as organic carbon inclusions using transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and electron energy loss spectroscopy (EELS) analyses. After excluding C and correcting for K-drift from the electron microprobe analyses, the composition of the carnotite was determined as 8.64% K2O, 0.26% CaO, 61.43% UO3, 20.26% V2O5, 0.38% Fe2O3, and 8.23% H2O. The empirical formula, (K1.66Ca0.043Al(OH)2+0.145 Fe(OH)2+0.044)((U0.97)O2)2((V1.005)O4)2·4H2O of the studied carnotite, with an atomic ratio 1.9:2:2 for K:U:V, is similar to the that of carnotite (K2(UO2)2(VO4)2·3H2O) reported in the literature. Lattice spacing data determined using selected area electron diffraction (SAED)-TEM suggests: (1) complete amorphization of the carnotite within 120 s of exposure to the electron beam and (2) good agreement of the measured d-spacings for carnotite in the literature. Small differences between the measuredmore »and literature d-spacing values are likely due to the varying degree of hydration between natural and synthetic materials. Such information about the crystal chemistry of carnotite in mine wastes is important for an improved understanding of the occurrence and reactivity of U, V, and other elements in the environment.« less