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Oxidation state of plutonium in the Irish Sea


SEVERAL of the chemical parameters needed to understand the distribution and behaviour of plutonium in the aquatic environment have not been fully investigated in the field. We consider here two of the more fundamental of these parameters: (1) the oxidation state(s) of the plutonium present in seawater; and (2) the extent to which each oxidation state is associated with suspended particulate matter. A widely accepted analytical technique is adapted to separate the two oxidation states expected to show a high affinity for particulate matter, Pu(III) and Pu(IV), from the more soluble pair, Pu(V) and Pu(VI), and is applied to a series of seawater samples. It was found that in the area studied, generally >75% of the plutonium in solution, and <10% of the plutonium on particulate matter, was Pu(V + VI); consequently the distribution coefficients for Pu(III + IV) exceeded those for Pu(V + VI) by more than two orders of magnitude.

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NELSON, D., LOVETT, M. Oxidation state of plutonium in the Irish Sea. Nature 276, 599–601 (1978).

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