Behaviour and fluxes of natural radionuclides in the production process of a phosphoric acid plant


In recent years there has been an increasing awareness of the occupational and public hazards of the radiological impact of non-nuclear industries which process materials containing naturally occurring radionuclides. These include the industries devoted to the production of phosphoric acid by treating sedimentary phosphate rocks enriched in radionuclides from the uranium series.

With the aim of evaluating the radiological impact of a phosphoric acid factory located in the south-western Spain, the distribution and levels of radionuclides in the materials involved in its production process have been analysed. In this way, it is possible to asses the flows of radionuclides at each step and to locate those points where a possible radionuclide accumulation could be produced. A set of samples collected along the whole production process were analysed to determine their radionuclide content by both alpha-particle and gamma spectrometry techniques. The radionuclide fractionation steps and enrichment sources have been located, allowing the establishment of their mass (activity) balances per year.