Solid state speciation and potential bioavailability of depleted uranium particles from Kosovo and Kuwait
Faculty of Sciences. Chemistry
Journal of environmental radioactivity. - London
, p. 301-307
University of Antwerp
A combination of synchrotron radiation based X-ray microscopic techniques (ì-XRF, ì-XANES, ì-XRD) applied on single depleted uranium (DU) particles and semi-bulk leaching experiments has been employed to link the potential bioavailability of DU particles to site-specific particle characteristics. The oxidation states and crystallographic forms of U in DU particles have been determined for individual particles isolated from selected samples collected at different sites in Kosovo and Kuwait that were contaminated by DU ammunition during the 1999 Balkan conflict and the 1991 Gulf war. Furthermore, small soil or sand samples heavily contaminated with DU particles were subjected to simulated gastrointestinal fluid (0.16 M HCl) extractions. Characteristics of DU particles in Kosovo soils collected in 2000 and in Kuwait soils collected in 2002 varied significantly depending on the release scenario and to some extent on weathering conditions. Oxidized U (+6) was determined in large, fragile and bright yellow DU particles released during fire at a DU ammunition storage facility and crystalline phases such as schoepite (UO3·2.25H2O), dehydrated schoepite (UO3·0.75H2O) and metaschoepite (UO3·2.0H2O) were identified. As expected, these DU particles were rapidly dissolved in 0.16 M HCl (84 ± 3% extracted after 2 h) indicating a high degree of potential mobility and bioavailability. In contrast, the 2 h extraction of samples contaminated with DU particles originating either from corrosion of unspent DU penetrators or from impacted DU ammunition appeared to be much slower (2030%) as uranium was less oxidized (+4 to +6). Crystalline phases such as UO2, UC and metallic U or UTi alloy were determined in impacted DU particles from Kosovo and Kuwait, while the UO2,34 phase, only determined in particles from Kosovo, could reflect a more corrosive environment. Although the results are based on a limited number of DU particles, they indicate that the structure and extractability of DU particles released from similar sources (metallic U penetrators) will depend on the release scenarios (fire, impact) and to some extent environmental conditions. However, most of the DU particles (7396%) in all investigated samples were dissolved in 0.16 M HCl after one week indicating that a majority of the DU material is bioaccessible.