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Environmental Actinide Chemistry Laboratory

Amy Hixon


Uranium and thorium are naturally-occurring radioactive elements that are widely distributed among igneous rocks and oxide minerals. However, most actinides are present in the environment as a result of nuclear weapons production and testing, nuclear fuel disposition, and nuclear fuel cycle accidents (e.g., Chernobyl and Fukushima Daiichi). These actinide elements pose a long-term environmental concern due to their toxicity and long half-lives. Therefore, understanding and predicting their mobility is important for risk management.

Our overarching goal is to determine the mechanisms and kinetics of the processes that control actinide behavior. We work with both natural and engineered systems, conduct molecular- to field-scale experiments, and examine reactions that occur within nanoseconds or over decades of time.

Current projects include:

• Influence of surface site acidity on actinide and lanthanide sorption to pure mineral phases
• Development of mechanistically-accurate surface-complexation models for actinide and lanthanide sorption to pure mineral phases
• Behavior of uranyl peroxide cage clusters at interfaces
• Interaction of uranyl peroxide cage clusters with other actinides in solution
• Environmental aging of nuclear materials
• Glass matrix synthesis and rapid dissolution for selective actinide recovery


• PerkinElmer Tri-Carb 3110 TR ultra low-level Liquid Scintillation Analyzer (LSC)
• Varian Cary 6000i UV-Vis-NIR Spectrophotometer
• Allegra X-30R Centrifuge
• 2 Thermolyne 47900 furnaces (up to 900°C)
• 9 fume hoods
• 2 single-person gloveboxes
• 3 double-person gloveboxes
• Actinide Research Laboratory
• Midwest Isotope and Trace Element Research Analytical Center (MITERAC)
• Center for Environmental Science & Technology (CEST)
• Materials Characterization Facility
• Mass Spectrometry & Proteomics Facility

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