Depleted Uranium Corrosion and Mobility in an Arid Environment.
Brenda J. Buck, Univ of Nevada Las Vegas, Dept of Geoscience, 4505 Maryland Pkwy MS4010, Las Vegas, NV 89154, Amy Brock, Univ of Nevada, Las Vegas, Dept of Geoscience, 4505 Maryland Parkway Box 4010, Las Vegas, NV 89154, April L. Ulery, New Mexico State Univ, Dept of Agronomy & Horticulture, P.O. Box 30003, MSC 3Q, Las Cruces, NM 88003, and William H. Johnson, Los Alamos National Lab, Los Alamos, NM 88649.
Depleted Uranium (DU) particles remaining in arid zone soils after munitions use present a potential environmental and health hazard that needs to be further understood. The soil around a DU penetrator that had been weathering for 22 years in an arid southwestern U.S. site was examined by soil geomorphic, scanning electron microscopy, X-ray diffraction, and electron microprobe analyses to determine the products and processes of DU corrosion in an unsaturated environment. The primary products of corrosion were schoepite and metaschoepite which occur as silica-cemented, mixed schoepite-metaschoepite/clay/silt aggregates, as schoepite-metaschoepite-only aggregates, or as coatings upon soil grains. The mobility of DU is limited at this site by soil geomorphology and chemistry under the current environment which combine to decrease the potential health risks of uranium. Uranium mobility and risk could increase however, if land-use or climate changes occur. Improved extraction procedures are needed to characterize DU behavior in alkaline soils in the presence of amorphous silica and clay coatings.