Berkeley Lab

Sustainable Remediation of Complex Environmental Systems: Key Recent Technical Advances

Simulated uranium plume (concentration>1×10-6mol/L) in 3D at the Savannah River Site F-Area in 2050. The sky-blue region is the low permeable Tan Clay Zone, which separates the upper and lower aquifers.

This book chapter provides an overview of the key recent scientific advances to support sustainable remediation in complex geological systems demonstrated at the Savannah River Site F-Area, including site characterization techniques, hydrological and geochemical model developments and numerical simulations.

We have developed various subsurface characterization and modeling technologies to improve the predictive understanding of the groundwater contaminant plumes in complex geological systems. The technologies have been demonstrated at the Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site.


Groundwater remediation has been evolved recently with increased focus on sustainable approaches such as in situ treatments and natural attenuation. However, leaving contaminants in subsurface requires the increased burden of proof to show that plumes are stable and residual contaminants do not pose a significant health risk. At the Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site, we have developed and demonstrated various characterization and modeling technologies to provide the predictive understanding of the contaminant plume migration, including (1) a multiscale data integration method to integrate surface seismic and borehole datasets that have different resolution and spatial coverage, (2) a novel surface complexation model to describe pH-dependent uranium sorption behavior based on readily available datasets, and (3) a reactive transport modeling and uncertainty quantification framework to predict the future uranium plume behavior and to identify key parameters on the future uranium concentration. These technologies are expected to transform groundwater remediation at many other sites.


Wainwright, H. M.; Arora, B.; Faybishenko, B.; Molins, S.; Hubbard, S. S.; Lipnikov, K.; Moulton, D.; Flach, G.; Eddy-Dilek, C.; Denham, M. (2018), Sustainable Remediation in Complex Geologic Systems, The heaviest metals: Science and technology in Actinides and beyond.