Laboratory lysimeter studies were undertaken to evaluate the leaching characteristics and mobility of Ra-226 and other heavy metals (U, Th and Pb) from pyritic uranium mine tailings under sub-aqueous disposal conditions for assessing the long-term radiological stability of such waste repositories. The experiments were conducted using three types of un-oxidized tailings: fine, coarse and gypsum depleted mill total tailings. The results showed that Ra-226 was leached from surface of the submerged tailings and released to both surface water and shallow zone pore water during initial low sulphate ion concentration of the surface water cover in all three cases. The release of Ra-226 was further enhanced with the onset of weak acidic conditions in the surface water covers of both coarse and gypsum depleted mill total tailings. With additional acid generation and increasing sulphate and iron concentrations, the dissolved Ra-226 concentrations in the water covers of these tailings gradually decreased back to low levels. Pb was also leached and mobilized with the development of moderate acidic conditions at the surface of the submerged coarse and gypsum deplete tailings. No leaching of U and Th was observed.

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