A method is described that allows precise determination of 234U/238U activity ratios (UAR) in most natural waters using commonly available inductively coupled plasma/mass spectrometry (ICP/MS) instrumentation and accessories. The precision achieved by this technique (??0.5% RSD, 1 sigma) is intermediate between thermal ionization mass spectrometry (??0.25% RSID, 1 sigma) and alpha particle spectrometry (??5% RSD, 1 sigma). It is precise and rapid enough to allow analysis of a large number of samples in a short period of time at low cost using standard, commercially available quadrupole instrumentation with ultrasonic nebulizer and desolvator accessories. UARs have been analyzed successfully in fresh to moderately saline waters with U concentrations of from less than 1 ??g/L to nearly 100 ??g/L. An example of the uses of these data is shown for a study of surface-water mixing in the North Platte River in western Nebraska. This rapid and easy technique should encourage the wider use of uranium isotopes in surface-water and groundwater investigations, both for qualitative (e.g. identifying sources of water) and quantitative (e.g. determining end-member mixing ratios purposes.
Additional publication details
Use of ICP/MS with ultrasonic nebulizer for routine determination of uranium activity ratios in natural water