The aqueous chemistry of polonium (Po) in environmental and anthropogenic processes

R. Ram, J. Vaughan, Barbara Etschmann, Joel Brugger

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

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The longest-lived naturally occurring isotope of polonium is polonium-210, one of the daughters of uranium-238 (138 days half-life). As a daughter radionuclide of radon-222, polonium-210 can become enriched in pore fluids in U-bearing rocks, leading to contents in excess of 100 Bq.g−1 in some products from the mineral, coal, oil and gas industries (e.g., anode slimes in copper refinement; sludge from the oil and gas industry). Since 2006, IAEA recommendation limits require polonium and other radionuclides from the U- and Th-series decay to be regulated for products and wastes that contain >1 Bq.g−1, which results in the classification of large amounts of industrial products and waste as radioactive. To develop effective methods for polonium removal and/or control, it is necessary to acquire an understanding of its aqueous chemistry. Based on a review of available experimental data, we developed a self-consistent thermochemical model for polonium in inorganic aqueous solutions. Polonium exists mainly in two oxidation states in aqueous solutions: Po(IV) and Po(II). The importance of Po(II) is unique, as Te(II) or Se(II) complexes do not appear to play a significant role in aqueous solution at room temperature. The model is used to discuss polonium speciation in some environmental and process waters.

Original languageEnglish
Article number120725
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Hazardous Materials
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2019


  • Comparison to Pb, Se and Te
  • Environmental radiochemistry
  • Polonium aqueous chemistry
  • Polonium geochemistry
  • Thermodynamics

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