Plutonium and Uranium Atom Ratios and Activity Levels in Cochiti Lake Bottom Sediments Provided by Pueblo de Cochiti

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Historical operations at the Los Alamos National Laboratory have contaminated stream sediments with plutonium and other radionuclides. A small portion of these contaminated sediments has been carried by floods into the Rio Grande drainage system, eventually to be trapped by Cochiti Lake located on Pueblo de Cochiti lands approximately 8 km downstream of the Laboratory. In this study, lake bottom sediment samples provided by the Pueblo de Cochiti were analyzed by thermal ionization mass spectrometry to determine plutonium and uranium activity levels and isotopic atom ratios. This specialized analytical method allows us to take isotopic fingerprints of radionuclides found in ... continued below

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26 p.

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Gallaher, B.M.; Efurd, D.W.; Rokop, D.J. & Benjamin, T.M. May 1, 1999.

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Description

Historical operations at the Los Alamos National Laboratory have contaminated stream sediments with plutonium and other radionuclides. A small portion of these contaminated sediments has been carried by floods into the Rio Grande drainage system, eventually to be trapped by Cochiti Lake located on Pueblo de Cochiti lands approximately 8 km downstream of the Laboratory. In this study, lake bottom sediment samples provided by the Pueblo de Cochiti were analyzed by thermal ionization mass spectrometry to determine plutonium and uranium activity levels and isotopic atom ratios. This specialized analytical method allows us to take isotopic fingerprints of radionuclides found in the sediment and to determine how much plutonium and uranium came from the Laboratory and how much was deposited by worldwide fallout or is natural. Two distinct types of samples were processed: segments of a continuous vertical core of the entire accumulated sediment sequence and other samples from across the lake bottom at the water/sediment interface. Based on measurement of the {sup 240}Pu/{sup 239}Pu atom ratio, Laboratory-derived plutonium is present in eight of nine samples at the core site. On a depth-weighted basis, approximately one-half of the {sup 239}Pu and {sup 240}Pu came from early operations at the Laboratory; the remaining plutonium came from fallout dispersed by above-ground nuclear tests. In contrast to the core site, the samples from the other locations showed little or no evidence of Laboratory-derived plutonium, with more than 90 percent of the plutonium attributable to fallout. The overall amount of plutonium in all the samples is of the same magnitude as other reservoirs in the region. The net increase in plutonium over upstream reservoirs unaffected by Laboratory activities is a maximum of 0.014 pCi/g or 3.5 times. All of the samples reflect natural uranium compositions. Laboratory-derived uranium is not identifiable, presumably because the sediment contains abundant natural uranium that obscures the Laboratory signatures. Although Los Alamos legacy activities have contributed radioactivity to Cochiti Lake, there is no evidence of Laboratory-produced radionuclides entering the food chain or leaching into the water. Additional core samples are expected to be collected by the Pueblo de Cochiti to reduce uncertainty in contaminant inventory and risk estimates.

Physical Description

26 p.

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OSTI as DE00007387

Medium: P; Size: 26 pages

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  • Other Information: PBD: 1 May 1999

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  • Report No.: LA-13605-MS
  • Grant Number: W-7405-ENG-36
  • DOI: 10.2172/7387 | External Link
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 7387
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc703579

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Reports, articles and other documents harvested from the Office of Scientific and Technical Information.

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  • May 1, 1999

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • Sept. 12, 2015, 6:31 a.m.

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  • April 10, 2017, 6:27 p.m.

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Gallaher, B.M.; Efurd, D.W.; Rokop, D.J. & Benjamin, T.M. Plutonium and Uranium Atom Ratios and Activity Levels in Cochiti Lake Bottom Sediments Provided by Pueblo de Cochiti, report, May 1, 1999; New Mexico. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc703579/: accessed November 19, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.