Civil engineer awarded funds to study radioactive waste in soils

Published: Jun 2, 2010 2:00:00 PM
Media Contact: Sally Credille,, 334-844-3447


Mark Barnett

Mark Barnett, Malcolm Pirnie professor in Auburn University's Department of Civil Engineering, recently received a $978,000 grant from the Department of Energy (DOE) for the project, "Understanding the Subsurface Reactive Transport of Transuranic Contaminants at DOE Sites." Barnett's team includes researchers from Auburn, Yale University, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and University of Notre Dame investigating radioactive transuranic waste behavior in soils to identify the most effective way to secure these contaminants.

Before 1979, radioactive waste was disposed of in soil-covered trenches. Today, an estimated one million cubic meters of waste is being stored at seven federal facilities around the country until it can be relocated to a containment facility in Carlsbad, N.M. Though much of this waste does not emit high levels of harmful penetrating radiation, it does emit lower levels of radiation and will for tens of thousands of years.

"Given the long life of the contaminants and the potential impacts of human exposure, it is important that we understand how they move through the soil if we are to identify a cost-effective solution," says Barnett. "I'm proud to say that Auburn is one of the few authorized university laboratories in the country where there is research expertise, as well as specialized facilities to study transuranic geochemistry and reactive transport."

For more on Barnett's research and the Department of Civil Engineering, visit

Contributed by Katie Mullinax