Plutonium and uranium contamination in soils from former nuclear weapon test sites in Australia

D. P. Child, M. A. C. Hotchkis

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    37 Citations (Scopus)


    The British government performed a number of nuclear weapon tests on Australian territory from 1952 through to 1963 with the cooperation of the Australian government. Nine fission bombs were detonated in South Australia at Emu Junction and Maralinga, and a further three fission weapons were detonated in the Monte Bello Islands off the coast of Western Australia. A number of soil samples were collected by the Australian Radiation Laboratories in 1972 and 1978 during field surveys at these nuclear weapon test sites. They were analysed by gamma spectrometry and, for a select few samples, by alpha spectrometry to measure the remaining activities of fission products, activation products and weapon materials. We have remeasured a number of these Montebello Islands and Emu Junction soil samples using the ANTARES AMS facility, ANSTO. These samples were analysed for plutonium and uranium isotopic ratios and isotopic concentrations. Very low ²⁴⁰Pu/²³⁹Pu ratios were measured at both sites (∼0.05 for Alpha Island and ∼0.02 for Emu Field), substantially below global fallout averages. Well correlated but widely varying ²³⁶U and plutonium concentrations were measured across both sites, but 233U did not correlate with these other isotopes and instead showed correlation with distance from ground zero, indicating in situ production in the soils.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)642-646
    Number of pages5
    JournalNuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research, Section B: Beam Interactions with Materials and Atoms
    Publication statusPublished - 2013
    EventInternational Conference on Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (12th : 2011) - Wellington, New Zealand
    Duration: 20 Mar 201125 Mar 2011


    • ²³³U
    • ²³⁶U
    • Australia
    • Contamination
    • Fallout
    • Montebello
    • Nuclear
    • Plutonium
    • Uranium


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