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Rapid determination of actinides in emergency food samples

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A new rapid method for the determination of actinides in food samples has been developed at the Savannah River Site Environmental Lab (Aiken, SC, USA) that can be used for emergency response or routine food samples. If a radiological dispersive device or improvised nuclear device event occurs, there will be a urgent need for rapid analyzes of many different environmental matrices, as well as food samples, to support dose mitigation and protect general populations from radioactivity that may enter the food chain. The recent accident at Fukushima nuclear power plant in March, 2011 reinforces the need to have rapid analyzes for radionuclides in environmental and food samples. The new method to determine actinides in food samples utilizes a furnace ashing step, a rapid sodium hydroxide fusion method, a lanthanum fluoride matrix removal step, and a column separation process with stacked TEVA, TRU, and DGA resin cartridges. The furnace ashing and rapid fusion steps are performed in relatively inexpensive, reusable zirconium crucibles. Alpha emitters are prepared using rare earth micro precipitation for counting by alpha spectrometry. The method showed high chemical recoveries and effective removal of interferences. The determination of actinides in food samples can be performed in less than 8 h for 10 g samples with excellent quality for emergency samples using short count times. Larger food samples (100 g) may be processed in 24 h or less. The rapid fusion technique is a rugged sample digestion method that ensures that any refractory actinide particles are effectively digested. This method can be used to meet the derived intervention level guidelines recommended by the U.S. Food and Drug Administrations.

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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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Correspondence to Sherrod L. Maxwell.

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Maxwell, S.L., Culligan, B.K., Kelsey-Wall, A. et al. Rapid determination of actinides in emergency food samples. J Radioanal Nucl Chem 292, 339–347 (2012).

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