Helsingin yliopisto


Helsingin yliopiston verkkojulkaisut

University of Helsinki, Helsinki 2006

Development of analytical techniques for studies on dispersion of actinides in the environment and characterization of environmental radioactive particles

Jussi Jernström

Doctoral dissertation, November 2006.
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Science, Department of Chemistry, Laboratory of Radiochemistry and European Commission, Institute for Transuranium Elements, Karlsruhe, Germany.

Radioactive particles from three locations were investigated for elemental composition, oxidation states of matrix elements, and origin. Instrumental techniques applied to the task were scanning electron microscopy, X-ray and gamma-ray spectrometry, secondary ion mass spectrometry, and synchrotron radiation based microanalytical techniques comprising X-ray fluorescence spectrometry, X-ray fluorescence tomography, and X-ray absorption near-edge structure spectroscopy.

Uranium-containing low activity particles collected from Irish Sea sediments were characterized in terms of composition and distribution of matrix elements and the oxidation states of uranium. Indications of the origin were obtained from the intensity ratios and the presence of thorium, uranium, and plutonium. Uranium in the particles was found to exist mostly as U(IV). Studies on plutonium particles from Runit Island (Marshall Islands) soil indicated that the samples were weapon fuel fragments originating from two separate detonations: a safety test and a low-yield test. The plutonium in the particles was found to be of similar age. The distribution and oxidation states of uranium and plutonium in the matrix of weapon fuel particles from Thule (Greenland) sediments were investigated. The variations in intensity ratios observed with different techniques indicated more than one origin. Uranium in particle matrixes was mostly U(IV), but plutonium existed in some particles mainly as Pu(IV), and in others mainly as oxidized Pu(VI).

The results demonstrated that the various techniques were effectively applied in the characterization of environmental radioactive particles.

An on-line method was developed for separating americium from environmental samples. The procedure utilizes extraction chromatography to separate americium from light lanthanides, and cation exchange to concentrate americium before the final separation in an ion chromatography column. The separated radiochemically pure americium fraction is measured by alpha spectrometry. The method was tested with certified sediment and soil samples and found to be applicable for the analysis of environmental samples containing a wide range of Am-241 activity.

Proceeding from the on-line method developed for americium, a method was also developed for separating plutonium and americium. Plutonium is reduced to Pu(III), and separated together with Am(III) throughout the procedure. Pu(III) and Am(III) are eluted from the ion chromatography column as anionic dipicolinate and oxalate complexes, respectively, and measured by alpha spectrometry.

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Last updated 19.10.2006

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