Depleted uranium mobility and fractionation in contaminated soil (Southern Serbia)
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Goal, Scope and BACKGROUND: . During the Balkan conflict in 1999, soil in contaminated areas was enriched in depleted uranium (DU) isotopic signature, relative to the in-situ natural uranium present. After the military activities, most of kinetic DU penetrators or their fragments remained buried in the ground in certain geomorphological and geochemical environments exposed to local weathering conditions. The contamination distribution, mobility and/or fixation of DU in the contaminated soil profile at one hot spot were the subject of our study. The results should disclose what happened with released DU corrosion products in three years elapsed, given the scope of their geochemical fractionation, and mark out the most probable host substrates in investigated soil type. Methods. Gamma-spectrometric analysis of soil samples taken in the DU penetrator impact-zone was done to obtain present contamination levels. Set of samples is subjected to five-step and three-step sequential extraction p...rocedures, specifically selective to different physical/chemical associations in soil. The stable elements are determined in extracts by the atomic absorption spectroscopy. After the ion-exchange based uranium separation procedure, alpha-spectrometric analysis of obtained fractions was done and DU distribution in five extraction phases found from U-235/U-238 and U-234/U-238 isotopic ratios. Results. Depleted uranium concentration falls down to the 1% of the initial value, at approximately 150 mm distance to the source. Carbonates and iron/manganese hydrous oxides are indicated as the most probable substrates for depleted uranium in the characterized soil type. Therefore, in the highly contaminated soil samples, depleted uranium is still weakly bonded and easy exchangeable. The significant levels of organic-bonded depleted uranium are found in surface soil only. Discussion. Dependence of the fractionation on the contamination levels is evident. Samples with higher DU contents have shown a longer maintenance in the exchangeable phases, probably because adsorption/desorption mass transfer through the medium was not very fast. Organic-bonded, depleted uranium is present in surface soil samples due to its higher humus content. Considering geochemical composition of investigated soil, the indicating chemical associations as substrates are in agreement with some considerations based on the results for low-level waste unsaturated zones. Conclusions. The soil contamination with depleted uranium in investigated area is still 'spot' type and not widespread. Dependence of the fractionation on the contamination levels and presence of weakly bonded, depleted uranium in the hot spots areas is evident. Recommendations and Perspectives. A detailed study may be undertaken with suitable extractive reagents to define a bio-available fraction of depleted uranium in soil. The comparison of results for different soil types investigated by the same methodology may be useful. An applied combination of physical/chemical procedures and analysis may help in the decision making on the remediation strategy for sites contaminated with depleted uranium used in military operations.
Keywords:alpha spectrometry / depleted uranium / fractionation / sequential extraction / soil / Southern Serbia / uranium isotopic ratios
Source:Environmental Science and Pollution Research, 2008, 15, 1, 61-67
- Springer Heidelberg, Heidelberg