, Volume 296, Issue 2, pp 853-857
Date: 02 Sep 2012

Morphology of actinide-rich particles released from the BOMARC accident and collected from soil post remediation

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Abstract

The physical, chemical, and radiological characteristics of material released to the environment from accidents involving nuclear weapon components are dependent upon many factors, especially the manner in which the material is released and delivered to the environment. These characteristics will also be influenced by physical and chemical effects associated with weathering if the material remains exposed to the environment for a long period of time. This study evaluates the morphological characteristics of particles released to the environment as a result of the 1960 BOMARC incident and compares these characteristics to those described following similar incidents at Thule, Greenland (1968) and Palomares, Spain (1966). Each of these incidents involved unique circumstances and conditions that distributed actinide-rich particles to the environment with a range of distinctive morphological characteristics. Morphological and surface elemental analyses were conducted on a set of discrete particles isolated from samples of post-remediated soil collected at McGuire Air Force Base, the site of the BOMARC incident. Scanning electron microscopy and complimentary energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy were used to perform the analyses. Non-destructive analysis of uranium and plutonium contained in each particle was measured using high-resolution gamma spectrometry. Unique characteristics of the BOMARC samples include some particles exhibiting a smooth, crystalline texture and varying elemental surface distribution of uranium and plutonium, dependent on the particle’s morphology.