Speciation of iodine isotopes inside and outside of a contaminant plume at the Savannah River Site. Academic Article uri icon


  • A primary obstacle in understanding the fate and transport of the toxic radionuclide (129)I (a thyroid seeker) is an accurate method to distinguish it from the stable isotope, (127)I, and to quantify the various species at environmentally relevant concentrations (~10(-8) M). A pH-dependent solvent extraction and combustion method was paired with accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) to measure ambient levels of (129)I/(127)I isotope ratios and iodine speciation (iodide (I(-)), iodate (IO3(-)), and organo-I (OI)) in aquatic systems. The method exhibited an overall uncertainty of 10% or less for I(-) and IO3(-), and less than 30% for OI species concentrations and enabled (129)I measurements as low as 0.001 Bq/L (1 Bq/L=10(-13) M). The method was used to analyze groundwater from the Savannah River Site (SRS), South Carolina, USA, along a pH, redox potential (Eh), and organic carbon gradient (8-60 M DOC). The data confirmed that the (129)I/(127)I ratios and species distribution were strongly pH dependent and varied in a systematic manner from the strongly acidic source. While (129)I speciation in plume samples containing total I concentrations >1.7 Bq/L was similar whether measured by AMS or GC-MS ([I(-)][IO3(-)]=[OI]), AMS enabled (129)I speciation measurements at much lower concentrations than what was possible with GC-MS. AMS analyses demonstrated that groundwater samples minimally impacted by the plume were still orders of magnitude higher than ambient (129)I concentrations typically found elsewhere in the USA groundwaters and rivers. This is likely due to past atmospheric releases of volatile (129)I species by SRS nuclear reprocessing facilities near the study site. Furthermore, the results confirmed the existence of (129)I not only as I(-), but also as OI and IO3(-) species.

published proceedings

  • Sci Total Environ

author list (cited authors)

  • Schwehr, K. A., Otosaka, S., Merchel, S., Kaplan, D. I., Zhang, S., Xu, C., ... ASTER Team.

citation count

  • 15

complete list of authors

  • Schwehr, Kathleen A||Otosaka, Shigeyoshi||Merchel, Silke||Kaplan, Daniel I||Zhang, Saijin||Xu, Chen||Li, Hsiu-Ping||Ho, Yi-Fang||Yeager, Chris M||Santschi, Peter H

publication date

  • November 2014