The valorization of industrial by-products such as red mud became a tempting opportunity, but the understanding of the risks involved is required for the safe utilization of these products. One of the risks involved are the elevated levels of radionuclides (in the 100–1300 Bq/kg range for both the 238U and 232 Th decay chains, but usually lower than 1000 Bq/kg, which is the recommended limit for excemption or clearance according to the EU BSS released in 2013) in red mud that can affect human health. There is no satisfactory answer for the utilization of red mud; the main current solution is still almost exclusively disposal into a landfill. For the safe utilization and deposition of red mud, it is important to be able to assess the leaching behaviour of radionuclides. Because there is no commonly accepted measurement protocol for testing the leaching of radionuclides in the EU a combined measurement protocol was made and tested based on heavy metal leaching methods. The leaching features of red mud were studied by methods compliant with the MSZ-21470-50 Hungarian standard, the CEN/TS 14429 standard and the Tessier sequential extraction method for 232Th and 210Po. The leached solutions were taken to radiochemical separation followed by spontaneous deposition for Po and electrodeposition for Th. The 332 ± 33 Bq/kg 232Th content was minimally mobile, 1% became available for distilled water 1% and 6% for Lakanen-Erviö solution; the Tessier extraction showed minimal mobility in the first four steps, while more than 85% remained in the residue. The 210Po measurements had a severe disturbing effect in many cases, probably due to large amounts of iron present in the red mud, from the 310 ± 12 Bq/kg by aqua regia digestion, distilled water mobilized 23%, while Lakanen-Erviö solution mobilized ∼13%. The proposed protocol is suitable for the analysis of Th and Po leaching behaviour.
- Alpha spectrometry
- Gamma spectrometry
- Red mud
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Environmental Chemistry
- Waste Management and Disposal
- Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis