Measurements of actinides in soil, sediments, water and vegetation in Northern New Mexico

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This study was undertaken during 1991 - 1998 to identify the origin of plutonium uranium in northern New Mexico Rio Grande and tributary stream sediments. Isotopic fingerprinting techniques help distinguish radioactivity from Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and from global fallout or natural sources. The geographic area covered by the study extended from the headwaters of the Rio Grande in southern Colorado to Elephant Butte Reservoir in southern New Mexico. Over 100 samples of stream channel and reservoir bottom sediments were analyzed for the atom ratios of plutonium and uranium isotopes using thermal ionization mass spectrometry (TIMS). Comparison of these ... continued below

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18 p.

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Gallaher, B. M. (Bruce M.) & Efurd, D. W. (Deward W.) January 1, 2002.

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Description

This study was undertaken during 1991 - 1998 to identify the origin of plutonium uranium in northern New Mexico Rio Grande and tributary stream sediments. Isotopic fingerprinting techniques help distinguish radioactivity from Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and from global fallout or natural sources. The geographic area covered by the study extended from the headwaters of the Rio Grande in southern Colorado to Elephant Butte Reservoir in southern New Mexico. Over 100 samples of stream channel and reservoir bottom sediments were analyzed for the atom ratios of plutonium and uranium isotopes using thermal ionization mass spectrometry (TIMS). Comparison of these ratios against those for fallout or natural sources allowed for quantification of the Laboratory impact. Of the seven major drainages crossing LANL, movement of LANL plutonium into the Rio Grande can only be traced via Los Alamos Canyon. The majority of sampled locations within and adjacent to LANL have little or no input of plutonium from the Laboratory. Samples collected upstream and distant to L A N show an average (+ s.d.) fallout 240Pu/239Pauto m ratio of 0.169 + 0.012, consistent with published worldwide global fallout values. These regional background ratios differ significantly from the 240Pu/239Pu atom ratio of 0.015 that is representative of LANL-derived plutonium entering the Rio Grande at Los Alamos Canyon. Mixing calculations of these sources indicate that the largest proportion (60% to 90%) of the plutonium in the Rio Grande sediments is from global atmospheric fallout, with an average of about 25% from the Laboratory. The LANL plutonium is identifiable intermittently along the 35-km reach of the Rio Grande to Cochiti Reservoir. The source of the LANL-derived plutonium in the Rio Grande was traced primarily to pre-1960 discharges of liquid effluents into a canyon bottom at a distance approximately 20 km upstream of the river. Plutonium levels decline exponentially with distance downstream after mixing with cleaner sediments, yet the LANL isotopic fingerprint remains distinct for at least 55 km from the effluent source. Plutonium isotopes in Rio Grande and Pajarito Plateau sediments are not at levels known to adversely affect public health. Activities of 239+240pwui thin this sample set ranged from 0.001- 0.046 pCUg in the Rio Grande to 3.7 pCi/g near the effluent discharge point. Levels in the Rio Grande are usually more than 1000 times. lower than prescribed cleanup standards. Uranium in stream and reservoir sediments is predominantly within natural concentration ranges and is of natural uranium isotopic composition. None of the sediments from the Rio Grande show identifiable Laboratory uranium, using the isotopic ratios. These results suggest that the mass of Laboratory-derived uranium entering the Rio Grande is small relative to the natural load carried with river sediments.

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18 p.

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  • Presented at the Federation of Analytical Chemistry and Spectroscopy Societies, 2002 Annual Meeting, Providence, RI, Oct. 13-17, 2002

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  • Report No.: LA-UR-02-6501
  • Grant Number: none
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 976390
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc935284

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Office of Scientific & Technical Information Technical Reports

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

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  • January 1, 2002

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • Nov. 13, 2016, 7:26 p.m.

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  • Dec. 12, 2016, 5:55 p.m.

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Gallaher, B. M. (Bruce M.) & Efurd, D. W. (Deward W.). Measurements of actinides in soil, sediments, water and vegetation in Northern New Mexico, article, January 1, 2002; United States. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc935284/: accessed November 18, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.