Rapid determination of 226Ra in environmental samples

  • Sherrod L. Maxwell
  • Brian K. Culligan


A new rapid method for the determination of 226Ra in environmental samples has been developed at the Savannah River Site Environmental Lab (Aiken, SC, USA) that can be used for emergency response or routine sample analyses. The need for rapid analyses in the event of a Radiological Dispersive Device or Improvised Nuclear Device event is well-known. In addition, the recent accident at Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant in March, 2011 reinforces the need to have rapid analyses for radionuclides in environmental samples in the event of a nuclear accident. 226Ra (T1/2 = 1,620 years) is one of the most toxic of the long-lived alpha-emitters present in the environment due to its long life and its tendency to concentrate in bones, which increases the internal radiation dose of individuals. The new method to determine 226Ra in environmental samples utilizes a rapid sodium hydroxide fusion method for solid samples, calcium carbonate precipitation to preconcentrate Ra, and rapid column separation steps to remove interferences. The column separation process uses cation exchange resin to remove large amounts of calcium, Sr Resin to remove barium and Ln Resin as a final purification step to remove 225Ac and potential interferences. The purified 226Ra sample test sources are prepared using barium sulfate microprecipitation in the presence of isopropanol for counting by alpha spectrometry. The method showed good chemical recoveries and effective removal of interferences. The determination of 226Ra in environmental samples can be performed in less than 16 h for vegetation, concrete, brick, soil, and air filter samples with excellent quality for emergency or routine analyses. The sample preparation work takes less than 6 h. 225Ra (T1/2 = 14.9 day) tracer is used and the 225Ra progeny 217At is used to determine chemical yield via alpha spectrometry. The rapid fusion technique is a rugged sample digestion method that ensures that any refractory radium particles are effectively digested. The preconcentration and column separation steps can also be applied to aqueous samples with good results.


Rapid 226Ra Concrete Soil Vegetation Air filters Brick Water Alpha 



This work was performed under the auspices of the Department of Energy, DOE Contract No. DE-AC09-96SR18500. The authors wish to acknowledge Staci Britt, Jack Herrington and Becky Chavous for their assistance with this work.


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Copyright information

© Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, Hungary 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Savannah River Nuclear SolutionsAikenUSA

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