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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract -

Uranium Isotopes Distribution in Soils at the Rocky Flats Plant, Colorado


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 24 No. 2, p. 314-323
    Received: Mar 8, 1994

    * Corresponding author(s):
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  1. M. Iggy Litaor *
  1. Environmental Restoration Management, EG&G Rocky Flats Plant, Building 080, Golden, CO 80402-0464.



Soils east of Rocky Flats Plant (RTF) near Golden, CO, are contaminated with U as a result of past waste-storage practices, accidental release of oils laden with U, and low-level airborne emissions. A spatial analysis of three U isotopes was conducted to determine the concentration and distribution pattern of U contamination. Soils were sampled from 118 plots of 1.01- or 4.05-ha by compositing 25 evenly spaced samples from the top 0.64 cm. Uranium-234 activity ranged from 25.9 to 92.8 Bq kg−1, U-235 activity ranged from 0.1 to 25.1 Bq kg−1, whereas U-238 activity ranged from 30.7 kg−1 to 286 Bq kg−1. Geostatistical techniques were used to model the spatial dependency and construct isopleth maps showing U isotope distributions. Spatial correlation was not observed for U-234. This implies that U-234 is randomly distributed in the soil environment east of RFP. Uranium-235 exhibited a spotty and localized concentration pattern with no clear relationship between known burial and spill sites, and the present distribution of U-235 in the soils. Proposed wind-dispersal mechanisms were not consistent with the spatial distribution of U isotopes. Most of the observed activities of U-234 and U-235 were well within the natural range of U isotopes in soils. The lack of similarity in spatial distribution between Pu-239 + 240 and U isotopes probably resulted from the higher solubility and teachability of U isotopes compared with Pu-239 + 240 in the soil system. Although U-238 exhibited a pattern of localized spatial distribution, most of its observed activity was well within the natural range of U-238 activity in soils.

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