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Improved separation method for determining actinides in soil samples

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Radionuclides have been identified as a significant source of contamination at many United States Department of Energy (DOE) sites. As a result, reliable and accurate methods to determine actinide content in environmental samples have become increasingly important. Therefore, an improved analytical scheme using a series of actinide-selective extraction chromatography (Tru-Spec, Teva-Spec) and ion-exchange (Diphonix) resins was designed to satisfy the requirements of both alpha spectrometry and inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS). Alpha spectrometry required the sequential isolation of the actinides, whereas ICP-MS required only a group separation of the actinides. The separation schemes were designed to allow analysis of the actinides in soil, whether the soils were acid leached or totally dissolved through fusion. For those analytes present as contaminants (239/240Pu,241Am), the laboratory results agreed favorably with the accepted values for several reference soils. However, for the acid digestion procedure, the results for matrix constitutents (238U,234U,232Th) were quite low because the silicate matrix was not decomposed. The sodium hydroxide fusion technique described allowed accurate analysis of both matrix constituents and contaminants because a total dissolution was achieved.

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Smith, L.L., Crain, J.S., Yaeger, J.S. et al. Improved separation method for determining actinides in soil samples. Journal of Radioanalytical and Nuclear Chemistry, Articles 194, 151–156 (1995).

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