Multi-technique characterization of a nuclearbomb particle from the Palomares accident

R. Pöllänen, M. E. Ketterer, S. Lehto, M. Hokkanen, T. K. Ikäheimonen, T. Siiskonen, M. Moring, M. P. Rubio Montero, A. Martín Sánchez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


A January 1966 accident dispersed Pu and other nuclear bomb materials in the vicinity of Palomares, a village in southeastern Spain. Radioactive particles were identified in a soil sample collected in 1998 and analytical results obtained from one of the isolated particles are presented here. Isolation of the particle was performed using gamma-ray spectrometry and imaging plates. Scanning electron microscopy with X-ray microanalysis revealed the presence of U and Pu as well as Pb and Fe in the particle of ∼ 10 μm diameter. Radioisotopes of U, Pu, and Am were quantified using radiometric methods, inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry and secondary ion mass spectrometry. The elevated 235U/238U atom ratio indicates enriched U, and the Pu atom ratios are consistent with weapons-grade material. This work demonstrates that the analysis of individual particles provides information not available through bulk sample analysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15-28
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Environmental Radioactivity
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2006


  • Hot particle
  • Nuclear weapon
  • Plutonium
  • Radioactive particle
  • Uranium

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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