Liquid-Liquid Solvent Extraction/Alpha Spectrometry Procedure for Determination of Multiple Radionuclides in Terrorist Bomb Debris

B. A. Martinez, LANL/C-INC


S. D. Ware, LANL/C-INC

R. C. Roback, LANL/C-INC

M. M. Fowler, LANL/C-INC

G. H. Brooks, Jr.; LANL/C-ACS



The Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) requested that a rapid, reliable procedure be developed for the determination of multiple radionuclides found in terrorist bomb debris to aid the FBI in quick identification of the culprits. Direct leaching using hot concentrated nitric acid has been somewhat successful although complete dissolution was not possible. Using Keough and Powers’ di-2 ethyl hexyl phosphoric acid (D2EHPA) extractant-scintillation solution method, Pu-239, U-238, and Np-237 was removed from the pulverized sample dissolved in 2M HNO3. After removing the organic phase, Guilmette and Bay’s method comprised of isoocty acid phosphate (IOAP) extractant-scintillation solution and 0.5 M HNO3 was used to extract the Am-241 and Cm-244 left in the aqueous phase. By combining these two methods, multiple actinides could be separated into two classes and the components within the two classes identified through alpha spectrometry. Further separation attempts using ORNL’s mineral acid uranium stripping technique were not fruitful. The solvent extraction techniques combined with alpha spectrometry have been successfully used on pulverized vitric samples spiked with Pu-239, U-238, Np-237, Am-241, and Cm-244. Only very low-level intrinsically-contained radionuclide vitric samples have been processed and results are inconclusive but promising. High level vitric samples from Nevada Test Site nuclear test cavity melt glass debris with a well-known signature will be analyzed using the above techniques to verify the usefulness of this method. The latter is probably the closest to what one might expect at a terrorist bomb site and would be a good choice in determining whether this procedure works.