The analysis of nuclear materials and environmental samples is an important issue in nuclear safeguards and nuclear forensics. An analysis technique for safeguard samples has been developed for the detection of undeclared nuclear activities and verification of declared nuclear activities, while nuclear forensics has been developed to trace the origins and intended use of illicitly trafficked nuclear or radioactive materials. In these two analytical techniques, mass spectrometry has played an important role in determining the isotope ratio of various nuclides, contents of trace elements, and production dates. These two techniques typically use similar analytical instruments, but the analytical procedure and the interpretation of analytical results differ depending on the analytical purpose. The isotopic ratio of the samples is considered the most important result in an environmental sample analysis, while age dating and impurity analysis may also be important for nuclear forensics. In this review, important aspects of these techniques are compared and the role of mass spectrometry, along with recent progress in related technologies, are discussed.
Secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS) is a promising tool to measure isotope ratios of individual uranium particles in environmental samples for nuclear safeguards. However, the analysis requires prior identification of a small number of uranium particles that coexist with a large number of other particles without uranium. In the present study, this identification was performed by scanning electron microscopy - energy dispersive X-ray analysis with automated particle search mode. The analytical results for an environmental sample taken at a nuclear facility indicated that the observation of backscattered electron images with × 1000 magnification was appropriate to efficiently identify uranium particles. Lower magnification (less than × 500) made it difficult to detect smaller particles of approximately 1 μm diameter. After identification, each particle was manipulated and transferred for subsequent isotope ratio analysis by SIMS. Consequently, the isotope ratios of individual uranium particles were successfully determined without any molecular ion interference. It was demonstrated that the proposed technique provides a powerful tool to measure individual particles not only for nuclear safeguards but also for environmental sciences.
An UHPLC-ESI-qTOF-MS analytical method was developed for cyclopeptide alkaloids in the seeds of Ziziphus jujuba var. spinosa (Semen Ziziphi Spinosae), which is a commonly used herb in Chinese and Korean traditional medicines. Considering the basicity of cyclopeptide alkaloids, a specific separation method was developed for an UHPLC system. The compounds were detected by DAD and ESI-qTOF-MS, and their fragmentation patterns were also acquired by MSE technologies. Peak-picking of major compounds was performed with nine previously isolated compounds and two reference standard compounds. Tandem MS fragmentation behaviors of type-Ia and -Ib cyclopeptide alkaloids were investigated with the acquired data to develop a strategy for dereplication of other cyclopeptide alkaloid compounds in Z. jujuba var. spinosa. Two more cyclopeptide alkaloids were tentatively identified with UHPLC–ESI-qTOF-MS using this method.
Multi-collector inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (MC-ICP-MS) is currently used in our laboratory for isotopic and quantitative analyses of nuclear materials at ultra-trace levels in environmental swipe samples, which is a very useful for monitoring undeclared nuclear activities. In this study, to improve measurement precisions of uranium isotopes at ultratrace levels, we adopted a desolvating nebulizer system (Aridus-II, CETAC., USA), which can improve signal sensitivity and reduce formation of uranium hydride. A peristaltic pump was combined with Aridus-II in the sample introduction system of MC-ICP-MS to reduce long-term signal fluctuations by maintaining a constant flow rate of the sample solution. The signal sensitivity in the presence of Aridus-II was improved more than 10-fold and the formation ratio of UH/U decreased by 16- to 17-fold compared to a normal spray chamber. Long-term signal fluctuations were significantly reduced by using the peristaltic pump. Detailed optimizations and evaluations with uranium standards are also discussed in this paper.