PLUTONIUM UPTAKE AND BEHAVIOR IN PLANTS OF THE DESERT SOUTHWEST: A PRELIMINARY ASSESSMENT

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Eight species of desert vegetation and associated soils were collected from the Nevada National Security Site (N2S2) and analyzed for 238Pu and 239+240Pu concentrations. Amongst the plant species sampled were: atmospheric elemental accumulators (moss and lichen), the very slow growing, long-lived creosote bush and the rapidly growing, short-lived cheatgrass brome. The diversity of growth strategies provided insight into the geochemical behavior and bio-availability of Pu at the N2S2. The highest concentrations of Pu were measured in the onion moss (24.27 Bq kg-1 238Pu and 52.78 Bq kg-1 239+240Pu) followed by the rimmed navel lichen (8.18 Bq kg-1 and 18.4 Bq ... continued below

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Caldwell, E.; Duff, M. & Ferguson, C. March 1, 2011.

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Eight species of desert vegetation and associated soils were collected from the Nevada National Security Site (N2S2) and analyzed for 238Pu and 239+240Pu concentrations. Amongst the plant species sampled were: atmospheric elemental accumulators (moss and lichen), the very slow growing, long-lived creosote bush and the rapidly growing, short-lived cheatgrass brome. The diversity of growth strategies provided insight into the geochemical behavior and bio-availability of Pu at the N2S2. The highest concentrations of Pu were measured in the onion moss (24.27 Bq kg-1 238Pu and 52.78 Bq kg-1 239+240Pu) followed by the rimmed navel lichen (8.18 Bq kg-1 and 18.4 Bq kg-1 respectively), pointing to the importance of eolian transport of Pu. Brome and desert globemallow accumulated between 3 and 9 times higher concentrations of Pu than creosote and sage brush species. These results support the importance of species specific elemental accumulation strategies rather than exposure duration as the dominant variable influencing Pu concentrations in these plants. Total vegetation elemental concentrations of Ce, Fe, Al, Sm and others were also analyzed. Strong correlations were observed between Fe and Pu. This supports the conclusion that Pu was accumulated as a consequence of the active accumulation of Fe and other plant required nutrients. Cerium and Pu are considered to be chemical analogs. Strong correlations observed in plants support the conclusion that these elements displayed similar geochemical behavior in the environment as it related to the biochemical uptake process of vegetation. Soils were also sampled in association with vegetation samples. This allowed for the calculation of a concentration ratio (CR). The CR values for Pu in plants were highly influenced by the heterogeneity of Pu distribution among sites. Results from the naturally occurring elements of concern were more evenly distributed between sample sites. This allowed for the development of a pattern of plant species that accumulated Ce, Sm, Fe and Al. The highest accumulators of these elements were onion moss, lichen flowed by brome. The lowest accumulators were creosote bush and fourwing saltbush. This ranked order corresponds to plant accumulations of Pu.

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  • Journal Name: Journal of Environmental Monitoring

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  • Report No.: SRNS-NTS-DB06-2011
  • Grant Number: DE-AC09-08SR22470
  • DOI: 10.1039/c1em10208g | External Link
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 1017429
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc835175

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  • March 1, 2011

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  • May 19, 2016, 3:16 p.m.

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  • Dec. 12, 2016, 6:53 p.m.

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Caldwell, E.; Duff, M. & Ferguson, C. PLUTONIUM UPTAKE AND BEHAVIOR IN PLANTS OF THE DESERT SOUTHWEST: A PRELIMINARY ASSESSMENT, article, March 1, 2011; United States. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc835175/: accessed August 19, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.