Skip to main content

Direct analysis of cotton swipes for uranium and plutonium isotopic determination by microextraction-ICP-MS

by Veronica C Bradley, Brian W Ticknor, Paula R Cable-dunlap, Cole R Hexel, Benjamin T Manard
Publication Type
Conference Paper
Book Title
INMM & ESARDA 2023 Conference Proceedings
Publication Date
Publisher Location
Illinois, United States of America
Conference Name
INMM & ESARDA Joint Annual Meeting
Conference Location
Vienna, Austria
Conference Sponsor
Conference Date

The determination of uranium and plutonium isotopic abundance on environmental samples collected by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors is vital for the detection of undeclared nuclear activities and material under the international nuclear safeguards regime. Current analytical protocols require time-consuming sample preparation steps prior to subsequent measurement by inorganic mass spectrometry (MS). Recent efforts from this laboratory have focused on developing sample preparation methods for faster analysis, potentially allowing higher sample throughput[1]. Alternative methods including microextraction sampling in conjunction with inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) have been recently explored. This methodology, microextraction-ICP-MS, was developed such that uranium and plutonium could be extracted from the swipe surface and directed into the ICP-MS for an in-situ measurement, eliminating the need for swipe ashing and digestion. A commercial off-the-shelf microextraction system was customized with an automated movable XY stage that can be programmed to save sampling locations, allowing for automated rapid sampling of swipe surfaces. Additional efforts have focused on the utilization of collision cell technology to the microextraction ICP-MS method. This would eliminate the need for lengthy column chemistry procedures to purify separated uranium and plutonium fractions before analysis. Here, the extracted U/Pu analyte is measured by reacting the uranium ions with CO2 in the collision cell of an ICP-MS, shifting the uranium to UO+, which will not interfere with the plutonium isotopic determination. The developed method utilizing collision cell – ICP-MS technology has demonstrated the ability to measure plutonium isotope ratios in the presence of high uranium concentration on the transient signal from the microextraction system utilizing certified reference materials from JRC-Geel and the New Brunswick Laboratory Program Office.