Rapid dating of recent aquatic sediments using Pu activities and 240Pu/239Pu as determined by quadrupole inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry

Michael E. Ketterer, Bridgette R. Watson, Gerald Matisoff, Christopher G. Wilson

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48 Scopus citations


Quadrupole inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry has been used to rapidly establish the chronology of recent aquatic sediments via measurements of the activities of 239Pu, 240Pu. and the atom ratio 240Pu/239Pu. Following addition of 0.007 Bq of a 242Pu spike isotope, Pu is leached from 3-20 g aliquots of dry-ashed sediments with HNO3. A selective anion exchanger is used to preconcentrate Pu into ∼2 mL aliquots, which are directly analyzed using a pneumatic nebulizer and double-pass spraychamber operating at 60 μL/min solution uptake rate. The ICPMS data collection is performed for 10 min per sample. The U concentrations were 0.01-0.05 μg/L in the analyzed solutions, and the interference of 238U1H+ upon 239Pu+ was negligible. The method has been applied to determining Pu activities, inventory, and 240Pu/239Pu in a complete sediment core from Old Woman Creek (Huron, OH). The Pu activity profiles, obtained in ∼6 h of instrumental measurement time, are in agreement with a γ spectrometric 137Cs profile. Peak 239+240Pu and 137Cs activities in the core were 1.60 ± 0.02 and 47.8 ± 0.8 Bq/kg, respectively; inventories were 108 ± 2 Bq/m2 239+240Pu and 2710 ± 40 Bq/m2 137Cs. Detection limits, based upon the analysis of 20 g samples, were 0.004 Bq/kg 239Pu, 0.012 Bq/kg 240Pu, and 0.012 Bq/kg 239+240Pu. 240Pu/239Pu atom ratios of 0.16-0.19 were obtained for all core intervals containing detectable Pu, which indicates that global fallout is the source of these radionuclides.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1307-1311
Number of pages5
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 15 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry


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