Extraction Chromatographic Methods in the Sample Preparation Sequence for Thermal Ionization Mass Spectrometric Analysis of Plutonium Isotopes

A sample preparation sequence for actinide isotopic analysis by thermal ionization mass spectrometry (TIMS) is described that includes column-based extraction chromatography as the first separation step, followed by anion-exchange column separations. The sequence is designed to include a wet ashing step after the extraction chromatography to prevent any leached extractant or oxalic acid eluent reagents from interfering with subsequent separations, source preparation, or TIMS ionization. TEVA resin and DGA resin materials, containing extractants that consist only of C, N, O, and H atoms, were investigated for isolation of plutonium. Radiotracer level studies confirmed expected high yields from column-based separation procedures. Femtogram-level studies were carried out with TIMS detection, using multiple monoisotopic spikes applied sequentially throughout the separation sequence. Pu recoveries were 87% and 86% for TEVA and DGA resin separations, respectively. The Pu recoveries from 400 μL anion-exchange column separation sequences were 89% and 93% for trial sequences incorporating TEVA and DGA resin. Thus, a prior extraction chromatography step in the sequence did not interfere with the subsequent anion-exchange separation when a simple wet ash step was carried out in between these column separations. The average measurement efficiency for Pu, encompassing the chemical separation recoveries and the TIMS ionization efficiency, was 2.73% ± 0.77% (2σ) for the DGA resin trials and 2.67% ± 0.54% for the TEVA resin trials, compared to 3.41% and 2.37% (average 2.89%) for two control trials. These compare with an average measurement efficiency of 2.78% ± 1.70%, n = 33 from process benchmark analyses using Pu spikes processed through a sequence of oxalate precipitation, wet ash, iron hydroxide precipitation, and anion-exchange column separations. We conclude that extraction chromatography can be a viable separation procedure as part of a multistep sequence for TIMS sample preparation.