Rapid analysis of actinide isotopes using quadrupole ICP-MS for emergency preparedness and environmental monitoring

University dissertation from Örebro : Institutionen för naturvetenskap

Abstract: Transuranium elements in the environment are mainly derived from nuclear weapons testing and the nuclear fuel cycle. Of growing concern are illicit nuclear trafficking and the threat of terror acts. The development of rational methods, for environmental monitoring and for tracing sources of nuclear and radioactive materials in the environment, is constantly required.Traditionally, the actinides have been determined by radiometric techniques. These analyses can be time consuming for elements at low concentrations and with long half-lives. This thesis addresses the determination of actinides, especially plutonium, in environmental samples with ICP-QMS (inductively coupled plasma quadrupole mass spectrometry). The ICP-QMS instrument was equipped with an USN (ultrasonic nebuliser), which proved to be a successful combination for the determination of plutonium at low concentrations in acidified solutions after separation with anion exchange. The detection limit for plutonium was in the range 10-30 pg/l with a RSD of 1-10%. The suitability of chemical separation was evaluated for anion exchange, liquid-liquid-extraction and extraction chromatography.The outlined procedure, including sample dissolution, chemical separation and analysis, for determination of actinides in environmental matrices proved to be accurate and reliable. Quality assurance of the procedure was performed during an intercomparison exercise and with reference materials. The detection accuracy has also been validated with ?-spectrometry and ICP-SFMS. The procedure has been applied to saline sediments and fresh water sediments as well as several fresh water matrices.

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