Research to Help Hanford Clean Up
Markus Flury, WSU professor of soil physics, and Jim Harsh, WSU professor of soil chemistry, and colleagues from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, and the Idaho National Laboratory in Idaho Falls, have received a three-year $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to continue research on the fate of radioactive waste that has leaked from underground tanks into the soil.
The project will focus on development of a defensible conceptual model for long-term colloid mobilization and colloid-facilitated transport of radioactive waste in the semi-arid vadose zone at the Hanford site in Washington State.
The vadose zone is an unsaturated or partially saturated area that lies between the soil surface and the water table. A colloid is a mixture where one substance is dispersed throughout another. Familiar colloids include milk, fog, cheese and gelatin. In this case, the colloidal soil may speed the movement of Cesium-137 and other radionuclides.
“The importance of this work is to understand the basic mechanism of how contaminants move through the soil, so we can make predictions for the future and enable DOE to make long-term predictions for cleanup,” Flury said.
Many radioactive elements are known to attach very strongly to soil particles–but colloids in the soil can carry them farther than one would expect. Soil typically contains a lot of colloids to which radioactive particles can attach, but is not known how these colloids move through soil material, particularly in arid regions where water content is low. This study seeks to determine what happens if the soil particles themselves detach and move, becoming an important mechanism for movement of contaminants through the soil system.
“We use experiments and models to provide a basic understanding of how these contaminants can potentially move by way of colloids and predict its magnitude. For example, although Hanford is typically very dry, what happens with contaminants in situations of extraordinary rainfall or snow melt?” Flury said.
The experiments proposed in this study will use conditions specific to the semi-arid Hanford site, yet the models will be extendable to other waste sites in arid regions such as the Yucca Mountain site near Las Vegas in Nevada.
For more information on Flury’s research, please visit: http://tinyurl.com/59u4yp.
WSU Wheat Varieties Again Dominate Washington Acreage
Spring and winter wheat varieties developed by WSU scientists continue to dominate Washington’s growing wheat acreage, according to 2008 statistics recently released by the National Agricultural Statistics Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Overall, total acreage planted in wheat in the state has increased by 250,000 acres in the past year. Winter wheat acreage grew by 80,000 acres to approximately 1.8 million; spring wheat grew by 170,000 acres to about 620,000.
“Washington wheat growers are among the leaders worldwide in quality and productivity,” said Dan Bernardo, dean of the WSU College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences. “Their support of and partnership with WSU wheat breeders contributes significantly to that success.”
In particular, growers have adopted a new spring wheat variety, Louise, developed for release in 2007 by Kim Kidwell, WSU spring wheat breeder and associate dean of academic programs of CAHNRS. According to the statistics, Louise is the top variety of common spring wheat planted in the state, at 155,000 acres. That’s almost double the 80,800 acres planted with Louise in 2007, and represents one of the first times a spring wheat has ranked second in the overall wheat acreage in the state.
Eden, a white club spring wheat also developed by Kidwell, was the only white club variety reported, for a total of 7,500 acres. Hard red spring wheat variety Hollis, another variety developed by Kidwell, ranked in the top three varieties of hard red spring wheat planted in the state.
“The success of our breeding program is determined by how many acres of our varieties are grown by Washington wheat producers. It is very exciting for us to have released the number two wheat variety grown in the state,” Kidwell said.
In winter wheat, WSU professor Stephen Jones’ Bauermeister variety topped the hard red winter wheat category with nearly 75,000 acres planted. His varieties of soft white club wheat – Bruehl and Edwin – held two of the top three spots in that category.
“Bruehl, in particular, is looking good in this very dry year. It also is an excellent emerger, so it should continue as the number one club wheat next year as well,” Jones said.
Both Kidwell and Jones noted that there are several promising new varieties due to be released in time for next year’s planting, including Xerpha (soft white winter), Farnum (hard red winter), Whit (soft white spring), and Kelse (hard red spring).
“Although our recent releases are terrific, we truly believe that our best varieties may be yet to come,” said Kidwell.