Determination of uranium and radium concentrations in the waters of the Grand Canyon by alpha spectrometry
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In order to establish baseline information for current and future mining operations, water samples from the Colorado River and its tributaries have been analyzed for Ra-226 and uranium isotopes. Ra-226 was separated by coprecipitation on BaSO4 followed by alpha spectrometry. Ba-133 was used as a tracer for yield determination. Uranium was separated by a combination of BaSO4 precipitation and solvent extraction followed by coprecipitation on CeF3 for alpha spectrometry.
Results indicate that radium and uranium levels in the Colorado River and its tributaries, except the Little Colorado River, are below the EPA specifications  for drinking water of 185 mBq/liter (5 pCi/1) for Ra-226 and 433 mBq/liter (11.7 pCi/1) for U-238. However, the specific sources for elevated uranium and Ra-226 concentrations in the Little Colorado River should be identified, and the potential impacts from leaching of the naturally exposed mineralization inside the Grand Canyon should be investigated.
KeywordsUranium Radium Drinking Water Solvent Extraction BaSO4
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