We report a simple new technique for measuring low-level radium isotopes (224Ra and 226Ra) in natural waters. The radium present in natural waters is first preconcentrated onto MnO2-coated acrylic fiber (Mn fiber) in a column mode. The radon produced from the adsorbed radium is then circulated through a closed air-loop connected to a commercial radon-in-air monitor. The monitor counts alpha decays of radon daughters (polonium isotopes) which are electrostatically collected onto a silicon semiconductor detector. Count data are collected in energy-specific windows, which eliminate interference and maintain very low backgrounds. Radium-224 is measured immediately after sampling via 220Rn (216Po), and 226Ra is measured via 222Rn (218Po) after a few days of ingrowth of 222Rn. This technique is rapid, simple, and accurate for measurements of low-level 224Ra and 226Ra activities without requiring any wet chemistry. Rapid measurements of short-lived 222Rn and 224Ra, along with long-lived 226Ra, may thus be made in natural waters using a single portable system for environmental monitoring of radioactivity as well as tracing of various geochemical and geophysical processes. The technique could be especially useful for the on-site rapid determination of 224Ra which has recently been found to occur at elevated activities in some groundwater wells.
Additional publication details
Measurement of 224Ra and 226Ra activities in natural waters using a radon-in-air monitor