Accumulation of plutonium in mammalian wildlife tissues following dispersal by accidental-release tests

Academic Article


  • We examined the distribution of plutonium (Pu) in the tissues of mammalian wildlife inhabiting the relatively undisturbed, semi-arid former Taranaki weapons test site, Maralinga, Australia. The accumulation of absorbed Pu was highest in the skeleton (83% ± 6%), followed by muscle (10% ± 9%), liver (6% ± 6%), kidneys (0.6% ± 0.4%), and blood (0.2%). Pu activity concentrations in lung tissues were elevated relative to the body average. Foetal transfer was higher in the wildlife data than in previous laboratory studies. The amount of Pu in the gastrointestinal tract was highly elevated relative to that absorbed within the body, potentially increasing transfer of Pu to wildlife and human consumers that may ingest gastrointestinal tract organs. The Pu distribution in the Maralinga mammalian wildlife generally aligns with previous studies related to environmental exposure (e.g. Pu in humans from worldwide fallout), but contrasts with the partitioning models that have traditionally been used for human worker-protection purposes (approximately equal deposition in bone and liver) which appear to under-predict the skeletal accumulation in environmental exposure conditions.
  • Authors

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Johansen MP; Child DP; Caffrey EA; Davis E; Harrison JJ; Hotchkis MAC; Payne TE; Ikeda-Ohno A; Thiruvoth S; Twining JR
  • Start Page

  • 387
  • End Page

  • 394
  • Volume

  • 151