Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation

 

Chromium-51 in the Columbia River and adjacent Pacific Ocean Public Deposited

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  • Radioactive chromium-51, a waste byproduct from operation of nuclear reactors at Hanford, Washington, has been followed down the Columbia River and into the Pacific Ocean. Chemical factors influencing the partitioning of ⁵¹Cr between solution and sediment have been considered. Chromium-5l, in a hexavalent oxyanion when introduced into the Columbia River, largely remains in solution in a hexavalent anion during its passage through the lower river and after its entrance into the Pacific Ocean. A minor fraction of Hanford-induced ⁵¹Cr becomes attached to suspended particles and bottom sediments. Reduction of Cr(VI) to Cr(III) apparently precedes or accompanies sorption. Iron oxides appear to be the most important sorption substrate. Sediment organic matter acts both as a reducing agent, making ⁵¹Cr less soluble, and as a sorption substrate. Ion exchange on sediment particles is not important in retention of ⁵¹Cr by Columbia River sediment. Chromium-51 is a sensitive and unique tracer for Columbia River water at sea and has been used to trace the Columbia River plume up to 525 km away from the mouth of the river. Dispersion of ⁵¹Cr by the Columbia River system would be adversely affected by: 1) lowered pH; 2) presence of particulate organic wastes; 3) increased temperature; 4) increased biological oxygen demand. These factors would increase the rate of uptake of ⁵¹Cr by sediments and thus increase the steady-state inventory of ⁵¹Cr on the bottom of the river.
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