DETECTION OF THE ACTINIDES AND CESIUM FROM ENVIRONMENTAL SAMPLES
Snow, Mathew Spencer
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Detection of the actinides and cesium in the environment is important for a variety of applications ranging from environmental remediation to safeguards and nuclear forensics. The utilization of multiple different elemental concentrations and isotopic ratios together can significantly improve the ability to attribute contamination to a unique source term and/or generation process; however, the utilization of multiple elemental "signatures" together from environmental samples requires knowledge of the impact of chemical fractionation for various elements under a variety of environmental conditions (including predominantly aqueous versus arid conditions). The research reported in this dissertation focuses on three major areas: 1. Improving the understanding of actinide-mineral interactions at ultra-low concentrations. Chapter 2 reports a batch sorption and modeling study of Np(V) sorption to the mineral goethite from attomolar to micromolar concentrations. 2. Improving the detection capabilities for Thermal Ionization Mass Spectrometry (TIMS) analyses of ultra-trace cesium from environmental samples. Chapter 4 reports a new method which significantly improves the chemical yields, purification, sample processing time, and ultimately, the detection limits for TIMS analyses of femtogram quantities of cesium from a variety of environmental sample matrices. 3. Demonstrating how actinide and cesium concentrations and isotopic ratios from environmental samples can be utilized together to determine a wealth of information including environmental transport mechanisms (e.g. aqueous versus arid transport) and information on the processes which generated the original material. Chapters1, 3 and 5 demonstrate these principles using Pu, Am, Np, and Cs concentrations and isotopic ratios from contaminated soils taken near the Subsurface Disposal Area (SDA) of Idaho National Laboratory (INL) (a low level radioactive waste disposal site in southeastern Idaho).