Plutonium Partitioning Behavior to Humic Acids from Widely Varying Soils Is Related to Carboxyl-Containing Organic Compounds.
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In order to examine the influence of the HA molecular composition on the partitioning of Pu, ten different kinds of humic acids (HAs) of contrasting chemical composition, collected and extracted from different soil types around the world were equilibrated with groundwater at low Pu concentrations (10-14 M). Under mildly acidic conditions (pH 5.5), 29 24% of the HAs were released as colloidal organic matter (>3 kDa to <0.45 m), yet this HA fraction accounted for a vast majority of the bound Pu, 76 13% on average. In comparison, the particulate HA fraction bound only 8 4% on average of the added Pu. The truly dissolved Pu fraction was typically <1%. Pu binding was strongly and positively correlated with the concentrations of organic nitrogen in both particulate (>0.45 m) and colloidal phases in terms of activity percentage and partitioning coefficient values (logKd). Based on molecular characterization of the HAs by solid state 13C nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and elemental analysis, Pu binding was correlated to the concentration of carboxylate functionalities and nitrogen groups in the particulate and colloidal phases. The much greater tendency of Pu to bind to colloidal HAs than to particulate HA has implications on whether NOM acts as a Pu source or sink during natural or man-induced episodic flooding.