Radioanalytical Method Development for Nuclear Forensics and Safeguards: New Challenges and Old Familiars
The fast and reliable analysis of radioactive samples is of uttermost importance for nuclear forensics and safeguards. A fast quantification of the amount of radioactivity released is for example necessary to estimate the exposure risk to the public and to allow for swift and informed decision making in the immediate aftermath of the incident. Most current radioanalytical methods, particular for analysis of actinide elements and pure beta emitters, require however a substantial amount of sample preparation and chemical separations before the radionuclide of interest can be measured.
It is therefore necessary to develop new sample analysis procedures that allow for a quick turnaround time and increased sample throughput with a minimum of deviation between samples. Another challenge stems from the fact that most current procedures have been developed for the analysis of air, water, soil and bioassay samples. While these protocols build the foundation of operational environmental monitoring, they are not necessarily suitable for the analysis of samples that will be encountered in the aftermath of a nuclear incident involving an improvised nuclear device or a dirty bomb. Of particular interest for emergency response and nuclear forensics are therefore methods that can be applied to the analysis of steel, concrete, melt glass, asphalt and bone samples.