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J Environ Radioact. 2009 Apr;100(4):290-300. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvrad.2008.12.016. Epub 2009 Jan 21.

Association of plutonium with sediments from the Ob and Yenisey Rivers and Estuaries.

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Department of Plant and Environmental Science, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Aas, Norway.


The present study applied sequential extraction techniques to investigate the binding and mobility of plutonium (Pu) in sediments from the rivers and estuaries of the Ob and Yenisey. As a study site, the Ob and Yenisey are particularly interesting as both rivers have weapons-grade Pu sources in their catchment areas, including the Russian Pu production and reprocessing plants at Mayak, Tomsk-7 and Krashnoyarsk, and the Semipalantinsk nuclear weapons testing site in Kazakhstan. Plutonium activity and (240)Pu/(239)Pu ratios were determined using accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS). Sequential extractions showed that between 47 and 80% of the Pu in Yenisey River sediments and 35-53% of the Pu in soils around the Techa River are mobilized with weak oxidising agents, which can indicate that Pu is bound to organic material. In contrast, Pu in Ob and Yenisey Estuarine sediments was more strongly bound, with 60-100% being found in the HNO(3)-extractable fraction. This change in speciation could reflect either that Pu bound to organic material in the Techa and Yenisey River sediments becomes more fixed to the sediments with time, or that organic-bound Pu is mobilized and released to the water when the sediments encounter the more saline water of the Ob and Yenisey estuaries. In general, (240)Pu/(239)Pu ratios were relatively consistent between different extraction fractions, although, in whole sediments, an increase in ratio was observed with distance from the source. This reflects the increased influence of weapon fallout from catchment runoff within the river systems, as compared to the weapons-grade sources close to the production and reprocessing plants. Knowledge of Pu speciation in the Ob and Yenisey Rivers, and the processes controlling its behaviour in estuarine systems, can improve predictions of its transfer and subsequent environmental impact to Arctic Seas.

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