Association of plutonium with sediments from the Ob and Yenisey Rivers and Estuaries

Lindis Skipperud*, Justin Brown, L. Keith Fifield, Deborah H. Oughton, Brit Salbu

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    27 Citations (Scopus)


    The present study applied sequential extraction techniques to investigate the binding and mobility of plutonium (Pu) in sediments from the rivers and estuaries of the Ob and Yenisey. As a study site, the Ob and Yenisey are particularly interesting as both rivers have weapons-grade Pu sources in their catchment areas, including the Russian Pu production and reprocessing plants at Mayak, Tomsk-7 and Krashnoyarsk, and the Semipalantinsk nuclear weapons testing site in Kazakhstan. Plutonium activity and 240Pu/239Pu ratios were determined using accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS). Sequential extractions showed that between 47 and 80% of the Pu in Yenisey River sediments and 35-53% of the Pu in soils around the Techa River are mobilized with weak oxidising agents, which can indicate that Pu is bound to organic material. In contrast, Pu in Ob and Yenisey Estuarine sediments was more strongly bound, with 60-100% being found in the HNO3-extractable fraction. This change in speciation could reflect either that Pu bound to organic material in the Techa and Yenisey River sediments becomes more fixed to the sediments with time, or that organic-bound Pu is mobilized and released to the water when the sediments encounter the more saline water of the Ob and Yenisey estuaries. In general, 240Pu/239Pu ratios were relatively consistent between different extraction fractions, although, in whole sediments, an increase in ratio was observed with distance from the source. This reflects the increased influence of weapon fallout from catchment runoff within the river systems, as compared to the weapons-grade sources close to the production and reprocessing plants. Knowledge of Pu speciation in the Ob and Yenisey Rivers, and the processes controlling its behaviour in estuarine systems, can improve predictions of its transfer and subsequent environmental impact to Arctic Seas.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)290-300
    Number of pages11
    JournalJournal of Environmental Radioactivity
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - Apr 2009


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