In the analysis of environmental samples for uranium and thorium pollutants and
at natural levels for the dating of geological samples there was felt a need to
develop better uranium and thorium separation procedures to replace the
established anion exchange method used at AEA Technology plc. This was the
first aim of the PhD research. Separation of uranium from thorium prior to
measurement of the isotopes by alpha spectrometry was necessary due to the
similar alpha energies of234U and 230Th.
TRU and UTEVA extraction chromatography resins (EIChroM Industries) were
investigated as potential replacements to the anion exchange separation method.
The resins are claimed by EIChroM to offer the advantage of providing an
actinide specific separation while reducing the separation time from 2 to 0.5 days;
the volume of acidic waste produced by a factor of 3, therefore, the cost of
analysis was reduced.
A uranium and thorium separation procedure using the UTEVA extraction
chromatography resin was developed. The uranium and thorium were sorbed by
the UTEVA resin from 2M nitric acid. The thorium was then eluted from the
resin with 5M hydrochloric acid and the uranium with 0.02M hydrochloric acid.
The separation procedure was then evaluated using uraninite ore, coral, granite
and lake sediment reference materials. The uranium and thorium concentrations
and the 234U/238U and 23oTh/234U activity ratio values determined for the reference
material were in good agreement with certified values.
The presence of plutonium was found to interfere with the measurement of
uranium and thorium by alpha spectrometry. This was due to the similar alpha
energies of uranium, thorium and plutonium. The co-elution of plutonium with
uranium and thorium from the UTEVA resin was prevented by the inclusion of a
reduction step using iron (Il) sulphamate. The resulting plutonium (Ill) was not
retained by the UTEVA column. The chemical recoveries for the procedure were
similar to those for anion-exchange, but the extraction chromatography procedure
provided a more rapid separation using less reagents…
A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.