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The morphologies and compositions of depleted uranium particles from an environmental case-study

By N.S. Lloyd, J.F.W. Mosselmans, R.R. Parrish, S.R.N. Chenery, S.V. Hainsworth and S.J. Kemp


Uraniferous particles from contaminated environmental samples were analysed by scanning electron\ud microscopy with energy dispersive X-ray analysis (SEM-EDXA), and microfocus extended X-ray\ud absorption fine-structure (μEXAFS) spectroscopy. The particles of interest are uranium oxides, which\ud were released into the environment by the combustion of scrap depleted uranium (DU) metal at a\ud factory in Colonie, NY, USA. Most of the identified particles appear to have primary, ‘as emitted’\ud morphologies; some have evidence of minor dissolution, including corrosion pitting. Polycrystalline\ud and often hollow microscopic spheres were identified, which are similar to particles produced by DU\ud munitions impacting armoured targets. They are attributed to the autothermic oxidation of melt\ud droplets. The compositions of the analysed spheres are dominated by UO2+x with variable amounts of\ud U3O8, two of the least soluble and bioaccessible phases of uranium. These particles, collected from\ud dusts and soils, have survived more than 25 years in the terrestrial environment. This study further\ud supports the case for using Colonie as an analogue for battlefield DU contamination

Topics: Earth Sciences
Publisher: Mineralogical Society of Great Britain and Ireland
Year: 2009
DOI identifier: 10.1180/minmag.2009.073.3.495
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