Frequency distribution, isotopic composition and physical characterization of plutonium-bearing particles from the Fig-Quince zone on Runit Island, Enewetak Atoll

Terry F. Hamilton, Jussi Jernström, Roger E. Martinelli, Steven R. Kehl, Mats Eriksson, Ross W. Williams, Marck Bielewski, Ariel N. Rivers, Thomas A. Brown, Scott J. Tumey, Maria Betti

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

    Abstract

    Runit Island on Enewetak Atoll was very heavily impacted by the U.S. nuclear testing campaign in the northern Marshall Islands (1946–58). The primary source of contamination on Runit Island was the 1958 Quince safety test where a large quantity of device plutonium (Pu) was scattered over the area near the GZ. A second low-yield device was detonated on the same site 10 days later, further disturbing the soil and leaving behind a very heterogeneous pattern of contamination including milligram-size particles of plutonium. A limited cleanup of the Fig-Quince zone was carried out in 1979. During this period, the effectiveness of the cleanup operations was primarily evaluated on the basis of bulk soil concentration data with little consideration given to the heterogeneity and long-term material-, biological-, and environmental-specific impacts of residual high activity (hot) particle contamination. The aim of the present study was twofold; (i) to characterize the levels and distribution of residual contamination in the Fig-Quince zone, and (ii) to develop pertinent data on the frequency distribution, elemental and isotopic composition, and physico-chemical properties of hot particles isolated from surface soils from Fig-Quince with a view towards providing recommendations on the future management and possible cleanup of the site. Today, Runit Island remains under an administrative quarantine.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalJournal of Radioanalytical and Nuclear Chemistry
    Volume282
    Issue number3
    Pages (from-to)1019-1026
    ISSN0236-5731
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2009

    Keywords

    • Radioecology and tracer studies
    • Nuclear technologies

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