Nitrate is a promising heat transfer fluid in solar thermal power and nuclear power systems, but its leakage can cause serious environmental problems. The present paper investigates the deep and prolonged migration of high concentrations of nitrate into the soil system, and the associated diffusion range is studied to estimate and reduce the environmental pollution caused by nitrate leaks. The vertical nitrate contaminated range is mainly impacted by annual precipitation, soil properties and groundwater depth, while the horizontal contaminated range is mainly affected by the initial leakage area. During the process, the vertical contaminated range first continuously enlarges, and then decreases after a long time. The nitrate contaminant can exist and affect the environment for as long as 115–625 years, and the nitrate contamination time can be even longer in dry regions. Since nitrate diffuses more quickly in unsaturated regions rather than in saturated regions, the migration region and contaminated range both decrease as the groundwater depth is increased.
Energy, Environment Protection, Nuclear Power Engineering