One of the most toxic byproducts of nuclear power and weapons production is the transuranics, which have a high radiotoxicity and long biological half-life due to their tendency to accumulate in the skeletal system. This accumulation is inhomogeneous and has been associated with the chemical properties and structure of the bone material rather than its location or function. This suggests a chemical driving force to incorporation and requires an atomic scale mechanistic understanding of the incorporation process. Here we propose a new incorporation mechanism for trivalent actinides and lanthanides into synthetic and biologically produced hydroxyapatite. Time-resolved laser fluorescence spectroscopy and extended X-ray absorption fine structure have been used to demonstrate that trivalent actinides and lanthanides incorporate into the amorphous grain boundaries of apatite. This incorporation site can be used to explain patterns in uptake and distribution of radionuclides in the mammalian skeletal system.
- trivalent actinides