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The limitations placed on the use of inductively coupled plasma source optical emission spectroscopy (ICP-OES) for the examination of radioactive materials are discussed, particularly the influence of radiation and contamination hazards on facility design. The design of safe facilities can be ensured by careful attention to containment, shielding, and methodology. Removal of active aerosols, generated by the plasma source, from exhaust gases can be achieved by the use of high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters. Containment of plasma sources in fume hoods can be satisfactory, but special precautions should be adopted to avoid the consequences of exhaust failure. Glove box containment is highly desirable when analyzing solutions containing plutonium-239 at concentrations >1 μg mL−1. Radiation hazards can be lowered, waste production reduced, and the need for heavy shielding lessened by adopting a small-sample approach with transient signal measurement. Many desirable design features have been incorporated into an upgraded ICP-OES system at Harwell, which should allow the safe, efficient analysis of the wide range of radioactive samples generated in a nuclear energy research establishment. Elsewhere in the United Kingdom, a number of other facilities for analysis of radioactive materials are in the course of design, installation, and commissioning, including two aimed at supporting reprocessing activities.
spectroscopy, plasma spectroscopy, radioactive materials, plasma source, containment, shielding, radiation exposure, interference, glove box, fume hood, United Kingdom ICP-OES facilities, radioactive waste, reprocessing, aerosols, filtration, exhaust, uranium, plutonium, fission products, facility design
Principal scientific officer, Harwell Laboratory, United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority, Didcot, Oxfordshire,