Abstract / Description of output
The mobility and bioavailability of depleted uranium (DU) in soils at a UK Ministry of Defence (UK MoD) weapons testing range were investigated. Soil and vegetation were collected near a test-firing position and at eight points along a transect line extending 200 m down-slope, perpendicular to the firing line, toward a small stream. Earthworms and porewaters were subsequently separated from the soils and both total filtered porewater (<0.2 μm) and discrete size fractions (0.2 μm−100 kDa, 100−30 kDa, 30−3 kDa, and <3 kDa) obtained via centrifugal ultrafiltration were examined. Uranium concentrations were determined by inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometry (ICP-OES) for soils and ICP-mass spectrometry (MS) for earthworms and porewaters, while 235U:238U atom ratios were determined by multicollector (MC)-ICP-MS. Comparison of the porewater and earthworm isotopic values with those of the soil solids indicated that DU released into the environment during weapons test-firing operations was more labile and more bioavailable than naturally occurring U in the soils at the testing range. Importantly, DU was shown to be present in soil porewater even at a distance of 185 m from the test-firing position and, along the extent of the transect, was apparently associated with organic colloids.