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Talanta ; 221: 121431, 2021 Jan 01.
Artigo em Inglês | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-33076062


Uranium ore is mined and milled to produce uranium ore concentrate (UOC), a regulated product of the nuclear fuel cycle. Diversion of UOC from the fuel cycle into possible weapons production is a key concern in global nonproliferation efforts. As such, the ability to trace the origin of seized nuclear materials is imperative to law enforcement efforts. Although isotopic signatures of UOCs have proven fruitful to pinpoint sample provenance, new isotopic signatures are needed because most existing isotopic signatures are not indicative of the original ore body from which the U is derived. In this work, we developed a new method to separate samarium (Sm) from a U-rich sample matrix and report the first Sm isotope compositions of 32 UOCs derived from a variety of worldwide uranium mines. Relative to terrestrial standards, approximately half the UOCs have resolved and anticorrelated 149Sm-150Sm isotope compositions, consistent with the capture of thermal neutrons by 149Sm in the ore body. The UOCs with anomalous Sm isotope compositions tend to derive from older (~>1.5Ga) and higher-grade ore bodies, although other factors, such as the presence of neutron moderators like water, also play a role. Nonetheless, the Sm isotope compositions of UOCs directly reflects the neutron fluence over the history of the original ore body and can be used to discern different geologic conditions associated with that ore body. As such, this work demonstrates the potential use of Sm isotopes as a novel nuclear forensics signature for origin assessment of UOCs.

Anal Chem ; 91(18): 11598-11605, 2019 Sep 17.
Artigo em Inglês | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-31310094


Until recently, the analysis and identification of nuclear fuel pellets in the context of a nuclear forensics investigation have been mainly focused on macroscopic characteristics, such as fuel pellet dimensions, uranium enrichment, and other reactor-specific features. Here, we report microscale isotopic heterogeneity observed in different fuel pellet fragments that were characterized in situ by nanoscale secondary ion mass spectrometry (NanoSIMS). The materials analyzed include fuel fragments obtained as part of the Collaborative Materials Exercise (CMX-4) organized by the Nuclear Forensics International Technical Working Group (ITWG), as well as a fuel pellet fragment from a commercial power reactor. Although the commercial fuel pellet showed a homogeneous 235U/238U ratio across the sample (within analytical error), NanoSIMS imaging of the CMX-4 fuel pellet fragments showed distinct microscale variations in the uranium isotopic composition. The average 235U enrichments were 2.2 and 2.9% for the two samples; however, the measured 235U/238U ratios varied between 0.0081 and 0.035 (0.79-3.3 atom % 235U) and between 0.0090 and 0.045 (0.89-4.3 atom % 235U). The measurement of 236U in one of the CMX-4 samples suggested the use of at least three uranium oxide powders of different isotopic compositions ("source terms") in the production of the pellets. These variations were not detected using the conventional bulk, macroscopic techniques applied to these materials. Our study highlights the importance of characterizing samples on the microscale for heterogeneities that would otherwise be overlooked and demonstrates the potential use of NanoSIMS in guiding further nuclear forensic analysis.

Science ; 331(6021): 1175-8, 2011 Mar 04.
Artigo em Inglês | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-21385711


Micrometer-scale analyses of a calcium-, aluminum-rich inclusion (CAI) and the characteristic mineral bands mantling the CAI reveal that the outer parts of this primitive object have a large range of oxygen isotope compositions. The variations are systematic; the relative abundance of (16)O first decreases toward the CAI margin, approaching a planetary-like isotopic composition, then shifts to extremely (16)O-rich compositions through the surrounding rim. The variability implies that CAIs probably formed from several oxygen reservoirs. The observations support early and short-lived fluctuations of the environment in which CAIs formed, either because of transport of the CAIs themselves to distinct regions of the solar nebula or because of varying gas composition near the proto-Sun.