Level, distribution and sources of plutonium in the coastal areas of China

Weichao Zhang, Xiaolin Hou*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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    Plutonium is an important radioactive element in view of its biological toxicity and environmental impact. The two most important isotopes of plutonium, 239Pu and 240Pu, in the surface soil from the coastal area of China were determined using radiochemical separation combined with inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) measurement. The average of the measured 240Pu/239Pu atomic ratios in all these samples is 0.186 ± 0.021, which is in good agreement with the ratio of global fallout of the nuclear weapons tests. This indicates that the major source of plutonium in this region is global fallout, and there is no measurable release of plutonium from any nuclear power plant along the coast of China. The 239,240Pu concentrations in all 71 soil samples range from 0.002 mBq/g to 0.670 mBq/g, which fall in the range of the reported values in the background area not directly influenced by nuclear activities. The anthropogenic disturbance of sampling sites, vegetation coverage of land, precipitation rate and organic substance content and erosion of soil have significant influence on the level of plutonium in the surface soil.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)587-595
    Publication statusPublished - 2019


    • Plutonium isotopes
    • Source term of plutonium
    • Spatial distribution
    • Environmental impact
    • Coastal areas of China


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