Partitioning of natural radionuclides in sediments around a former uranium mine and mill
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Partitioning of natural radionuclides in sediments from streams affected by the waste piles of the former uranium mine and mill located at Žirovski vrh, Slovenia, was performed by applying a sequential extraction procedure. The sediments were collected at three sites located upstream and three sites located downstream of the waste piles. Then the four-step Community Bureau of Reference (BCR) sequential extraction protocol was applied to the samples and the natural radionuclides 238U, 230Th, 226Ra, 210Pb and 210Po were analysed in each extraction fraction. It was expected that the fractionation of natural radionuclides originating from the waste piles would differ from that upstream of the influence of waste piles because their chemical environment had been altered during the processes of uranium extraction. This difference could allow tracing of the radionuclides coming from the waste piles downstream of the affected watercourses. The results definitely showed that the total activity concentrations at sites downstream of the influence of the waste piles were higher than at sites upstream of the piles. However, this difference was geographically very limited and could no longer be detected already at a distance of about 5 km downstream. Unexpectedly, the fractionation of radionuclides upstream and downstream of the area of influence of the waste piles did not appear to be significantly altered. The sole differences found were for 238U and 226Ra in the second fraction (the “Fe/Mn oxides” fraction) and for 210Po in the fourth fraction (the “residue” fraction) of the BCR sequential extraction protocol.
KeywordsSequential extraction Natural radionuclides Sediments Uranium mine and mill
The authors thank the staff of the Rudnik Žirovski vrh Company for their cooperation and assistance. Financial support of the Slovenian Research Agency (Grant no. P2-0075) is highly appreciated.
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