Tracking Radionuclide Fractionation in the First Atomic Explosion Using Stable Elements

Chloë E. Bonamici, Richard Hervig, William S. Kinman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Compositional analysis of postdetonation fallout is a tool for forensic identification of nuclear devices. However, the relationship between device composition and fallout composition is difficult to interpret because of the complex combination of physical mixing, nuclear reactions, and chemical fractionations that occur in the chaotic nuclear fireball. Using a combination of in situ microanalytical techniques (electron microprobe analysis and secondary ion mass spectrometry), we show that some heavy stable elements (Rb, Sr, Zr, Ba, Cs, Ba, La, Ce, Nd, Sm, Dy, Lu, U, Th) in glassy fallout from the first nuclear test, Trinity, are reliable chemical proxies for radionuclides generated during the explosion. Stable-element proxies show that radionuclides from the Trinity device were chemically, but not isotopically, fractionated by condensation. Furthermore, stable-element proxies delineate chemical fractionation trends that can be used to connect present-day fallout composition to past fireball composition. Stable-element proxies therefore offer a novel approach for elucidating the phenomenology of the nuclear fireball as it relates to the formation of debris and the fixation of device materials within debris.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9877-9883
Number of pages7
JournalAnalytical chemistry
Issue number18
StatePublished - Sep 19 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry


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