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The University of Southampton
Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton

Research project: Advancing low level radionuclide analysis using HR-Sector Field ICP-MS: bioassay applications

Currently Active: 

Uranium originates naturally from the environment, and has existed since the formation of the earth.  Anthropogenic uranium, and plutonium have been deposited across the globe through nuclear weapons testing, nuclear power etc.  As we exploit the properties of U and Pu, those with the potential for occupational exposure to these materials receive routine monitoring.  This involves analysis of urine and faecal samples to determine if a radiation dose has been received.

'Hot Cell’ radiation facilities found at nuclear sites (Source:
Argonne National Laboratory


As the potential for exposure is low, most samples will only represent the background U and Pu.  This means a highly sensitive method for their determination is required.  Current methods are lengthy and therefore time consuming.  A method for the rapid determination of U and Pu in urine is in development.




(Source: J Burraston)
High Resolution ICP-MS

Method Development

Once the elements U and Pu have been isolated from the sample, they are traditionally measured using alpha spectrometry. This new method will exploit the use of two high resolution ICP-MS instruments; Neptune and Element, to reach significantly lower detection limits, with a greatly reduced measurement time (3-7 days for alpha spectrometry, minutes for ICP-MS)


1.Develop a rapid method for the simultaneous determination of uranium and plutonium 2.Achieve substantially quicker turnaround from sample to measurement than capable with alpha spectrometry 3.Achieve considerably lower detection limits than achievable with alpha spectrometry


Natural uranium found in 24 hour urine samples (data from Valentin, 2002., Tolmachev, 2006., Galletti, 2003., Al-Jundi 2004.) (Source: J Burraston)
Natural uranium found in urine


This project is funded through an AWE Outreach Award to the GAU-Radioanalytical Group (Geosciences Advisory Unit)

Key Contacts

Ms Jade Burraston (PhD Student)

Prof. Ian Croudace (Principal Supervisor)

Prof. Phil Warwick (Supervisor)

Dr. Rex Taylor (Supervisor)

Dr. Kirsty Farrow (AWE Supervisor)

Related pages



PhDs and Other Opportunities


Associated research themes

Environmental Geochemistry and Radioactivicty

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