Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Radiochemistry

First Committee Member

Kenneth R. Czerwinski, Chair

Second Committee Member

Kenton J. Moody

Third Committee Member

Ian D. Hutcheon

Graduate Faculty Representative

Gary Cerefice

Number of Pages



Within the U.S. arsenal, 32 accidents with nuclear weapons were reported between 1950 and 1980. One of these accidents occurred at McGuire AFB in 1960. A BOMARC missile armed with a nuclear warhead caught on fire and as a result the warhead was destroyed. Sub-millimeter particles consisting of weapons grade plutonium (WGPu) produced by this accident were distributed around the site and remained in the environment for 47 years. Soil cores known to contain WGPu particles produced by this accident were obtained. The particles were localized and removed from the soil with the aid of high resolution computed tomography. The isotopic composition of the particles and the date of manufacture of the Pu were estimated using a combination of alpha and gamma spectroscopy. Scanning electron microscopy was used to study the surface morphology of the particles; energy dispersive spectroscopy and synchrotron based x-ray fluorescence were used to determine the composition and elemental distributions of the particles. The results of these experiments and their application to the field of nuclear forensic analysis are discussed in this thesis.


Bomarc (Missile); McGuire Air Force Base (N.J.); New Jersey; Nuclear weapons accidents; Plutonium; Radioactive pollution of soils; Soil remediation; Tomography


Chemistry | Environmental Chemistry | Environmental Health and Protection | Nuclear | Radiochemistry

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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