Plasma source mass spectrometry for radioactive waste characterisation in support of nuclear decommissioning: a review
The efficient characterization of nuclear waste materials represents a significant challenge during nuclear site decommissioning, with a range of radionuclides requiring measurement in varied and often complex sample matrices. Of the available measurement techniques, inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) has traditionally been applied to long-lived radionuclides, particularly in the actinide series. With recent advances in the technique, both the sensitivities achievable and number of radionuclides potentially measurable has expanded, with the reduced procedural time offering significant economic benefits to nuclear site waste characterization compared with traditional radiometric (typically alpha and beta spectrometry) techniques. This review provides a broad assessment of recent developments, improvements in capability and describes the advantages and drawbacks of ICP-MS with regards to sample introduction and instrument design. The review will be of interest to international agencies concerned with nuclear decommissioning as well as nuclear site laboratories, project managers and sites involved in environmental monitoring and nuclear forensics.