LA-ICP-MS for Pu source identification at Mayak PA, the Urals, Russia
Information on Pu in environmental samples is traditionally based on the determination of the 240+239Pu activity via Alpha Spectrometry (AS). A large number of alpha spectrometry sources (planchettes) containing radiochemically separated Pu are therefore stored worldwide and are available for further analyses. These archive samples represent a resource from which valuable information on isotopic composition of alpha emitters including Pu can be obtained. The relative abundances of Pu isotopes can be used to trace specific Pu sources and characterize the relative contributions of different Pu sources in a sample. Thus, in addition to the total 239+240Pu activity, determination of the 240Pu/239Pu ratio can provide valuable information on the nature of the Pu emitting sources. The Pu isotopic ratios can be determined by mass spectrometry techniques such as Sector Field Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (SF-ICPMS) or Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS) that require dissolution and complete destruction of the material deposited on the planchettes. In this study Laser Ablation (LA)-quadrupole-ICP-MS has been employed for the analysis of 239Pu/240Pu ratios from alpha-planchettes prepared from samples originating from the Mayak PA nuclear facility, Russia. The results are compared with data from AMS and show that the 240Pu/239Pu ratios obtained by LA-ICP-MS can be utilized to distinguish weapons-grade Pu from civil reprocessing sources. Moreover, isotope ratio mapping can also be performed across the planchettes, allowing e.g. the visualization of possible inhomogeneities in the Pu-isotope distribution on their surface. Thus, this solid sample technique can be applied to extract additional information from existing archives of samples.