Abstract

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

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