Rapid separation method for actinides in emergency soil samples

Sherrod L. Maxwell, Brian K. Culligan 1 , and Gary W. Noyes 2
  • 1  Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, LLC, Aiken, SC 29808, U.S.A.
  • 2  Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, LLC, Aiken, SC 29808, U.S.A.


A new rapid method for the determination of actinides in soil and sediment samples has been developed at the Savannah River Site Environmental Lab (Aiken, SC, USA) that can be used for samples up to 2 g in emergency response situations. The actinides in soil method utilizes a rapid sodium hydroxide fusion method, a lanthanum fluoride soil matrix removal step, and a streamlined column separation process with stacked TEVA, TRU and DGA resin cartridges. Lanthanum was separated rapidly and effectively from Am and Cm on DGA resin. Vacuum box technology and rapid flow rates are used to reduce analytical time. Alpha sources are prepared using cerium fluoride microprecipitation for counting by alpha spectrometry. The method showed high chemical recoveries and effective removal of interferences. This new procedure was applied to emergency soil samples received in the NRIP Emergency Response exercise administered by the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) in April, 2009. The actinides in soil results were reported within 4–5 h with excellent quality.

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