Title: Investigating incorporation and distribution of radionuclides in trinitite
Citation: JOURNAL OF ENVIRONMENTAL RADIOACTIVITY vol. 102 no. 9 p. 852 - 862
Publication Year: 2011
JRC N°: JRC67348
ISSN: 0265-931X
URI: www.elsevier.com/locate/jenvrad
DOI: 10.1016/j.jenvrad.2011.05.003
Type: Articles in periodicals and books
Abstract: Most of the surface explosions in nuclear tests have released radioactivity to the environment in the form of bulk glassy materials originating from the melting of sandy soil in the neighbourhood of ground zero. In view of clarifying issues concerning the mechanism of formation and the radiological impact of these materials, we investigated incorporation and volume distribution of radionuclides in a typical fragment of trinitite, the glassy substance generated following the first nuclear test (Trinity Site, New Mexico, 1945). Specific activities were determined by g-spectrometry for the most significant fission and activation products. In particular, 152Eu activity was used to estimate the original point of collection of the sample with respect to ground zero. After embedding in an epoxy resin, the sample was then sliced to perform cross-sectional b- and a-autoradiograph. a-spectrometry was also carried out on a fine powder obtained by surface abrasion. In the b-autoradiography, hot spots were distinguishable in the proximity of the blast side, over a 1000 times less intense background of sand activation products. Also a-contamination (from 239þ240Pu and 241Am) was mostly concentrated within the superficial layer, in a fraction of only 20% of the overall volume of the sample, exhibiting a discontinuous, droplet-like distribution. This evidence would partially support a recent hypothesis on trinitite formation according to which most of the glass layer was formed not on the ground but by a rain of material injected into the fireball that melted, fell back, and collected on a bed of already fused sand.
JRC Directorate:Nuclear Safety and Security

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