Molecular environment of stable iodine and radioiodine (I-129) in natural organic matter: Evidence inferred from NMR and binding experiments at environmentally relevant concentrations Academic Article uri icon


  • 129I is a major by-product of nuclear fission and had become one of the major radiation risk drivers at Department of Energy (DOE) sites. 129I is present at elevated levels in the surface soils of the Savannah River Site (SRS) F-Area and was found to be bound predominantly to soil organic matter (SOM). Naturally bound 127I and 129I to sequentially extracted humic acids (HAs), fulvic acids (FAs) and a water extractable colloid (WEC) were measured in a 129I-contaminated wetland surface soil located on the SRS. WEC is a predominantly colloidal organic fraction obtained from soil re-suspension experiments to mimic the fraction that may be released during groundwater exfiltration, storm water or surface runoff events. For the first time, NMR techniques were applied to infer the molecular environment of naturally occurring stable iodine and radioiodine binding to SOM. Iodine uptake partitioning coefficients (K d) by these SOM samples at ambient iodine concentrations were also measured and related to quantitative structural analyses by 13C DPMAS NMR and solution state 1H NMR on the eight humic acid fractions. By assessing the molecular environment of iodine, it was found that it was closely associated with the aromatic regions containing esterified products of phenolic and formic acids or other aliphatic carboxylic acids, amide functionalities, quinone-like structures activated by electron-donating groups (e.g., NH 2), or a hemicellulose-lignin-like complex with phenyl-glycosidic linkages. However, FAs and WEC contained much greater concentrations of 127I or 129I than HAs. The contrasting radioiodine contents among the three different types of SOM (HAs, FAs and WEC) suggest that the iodine binding environment cannot be explained solely by the difference in the amount of their reactive binding sites. Instead, indirect evidence indicates that the macro-molecular conformation, such as the hydrophobic aliphatic periphery hindering the active aromatic cores and the hydrophilic polysaccharides favoring the access by hydrophilic iodine species, also influences iodine-SOM interactions. 2012 Elsevier Ltd.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Xu, C., Zhong, J., Hatcher, P. G., Zhang, S., Li, H., Ho, Y., ... Santschi, P. H.

citation count

  • 52

complete list of authors

  • Xu, Chen||Zhong, Junyan||Hatcher, Patrick G||Zhang, Saijin||Li, Hsiu-Ping||Ho, Yi-Fang||Schwehr, Kathleen A||Kaplan, Daniel I||Roberts, Kimberly A||Brinkmeyer, Robin||Yeager, Chris M||Santschi, Peter H

publication date

  • November 2012