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J Environ Radioact. 2006;85(1):103-20. Epub 2005 Aug 15.

Radioactivity in trinitite six decades later.

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Wadsworth Center, New York State Department of Health, P.O. Box 509, Albany, NY 12201, USA.


The first nuclear explosion test, named the Trinity test, was conducted on July 16, 1945 near Alamogordo, New Mexico. In the tremendous heat of the explosion, the radioactive debris fused with the local soil into a glassy material named Trinitite. Selected Trinitite samples from ground zero (GZ) of the test site were investigated in detail for radioactivity. The techniques used included alpha spectrometry, high-efficiency gamma-ray spectrometry, and low-background beta counting, following the radiochemistry for selected radionuclides. Specific activities were determined for fission products (90Sr, 137Cs), activation products (60Co, 133Ba, 152Eu, 154Eu, 238Pu, 241Pu), and the remnants of the nuclear fuel (239Pu, 240Pu). Additionally, specific activities of three natural radionuclides (40K, 232Th, 238U) and their progeny were measured. The determined specific activities of radionuclides and their relationships are interpreted in the context of the fission process, chemical behavior of the elements, as well as the nuclear explosion phenomenology.

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