Cesium-137 in floodplain sediments of the Lower Three Runs Creek on the DOE Savannah River Site
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The legacy of nuclear weapons production has resulted in vast tracks of land contaminated with fission products, mainly 137Cs, and at the U.S. Department of Energy's Savannah River Site (SRS) alone there is over 120 km2 of land contaminated with low-levels of 137Cs. Soils on the SRS are highly weathered and dominated by sand-sized quartz grains with the clay fraction consisting primarily of kaolinite and crystalline and poorly crystalline iron oxides (<5%). Our results showed that the majority of 137Cs in the Lower Three Runs Creek floodplain were retained in the sand-sized fraction (>52 mm) of the soil. Frayed edge site measurements were performed in order to probe the interaction between 137Cs and the sand fraction, with the results indicating that the vast majority of the 137Cs was strongly retained and existed in the residual fraction. These results prompted examination into the mineralogy of the soils in a hope to elucidate the mechanisms of 137Cs retention by the sand fraction. The results from this study provide new evidence for selective retention of 137Cs in larger-grained particles than previously demonstrated.
KeywordsClay Fraction 137Cs Activity Sand Fraction Selectivity Coefficient Savannah River Site
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