Researchers in the UK and Zürich claim to have made a breakthrough in helping to inform clean-up operations on land around nuclear power plants.

Published in the journal Nature Communications, the new study outlines how the team has taken steps in differentiating between local and global sources of plutonium pollution in soil using accelerator mass spectrometry.

The researchers, from Lancaster University, ETH Zürich and Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd, believe this will be significant in providing information to those responsible for environmental assessment and clean-up of contaminated land.

By identifying the isotopic ‘fingerprint’ of trace-level quantities of plutonium in the soil which matched the isotopic fingerprint of the plutonium created by an adjacent nuclear reactor, researchers said they could distinguish levels of plutonium that were attributable to reactor pollution from general global pollution.

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