Determination of radionuclide levels in rainwater using ion exchange resin and gamma-spectrometry

J Environ Radioact. 2009 Apr;100(4):361-5. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvrad.2009.01.006. Epub 2009 Feb 20.


The evaluation of radioactivity accidentally released into the atmosphere involves determining the radioactivity levels of rainwater samples. Rainwater scavenges atmospheric airborne radioactivity in such a way that surface contamination can be deduced from rainfall rate and rainwater radioactivity content. For this purpose, rainwater is usually collected in large surface collectors and then measured by gamma-spectrometry after such treatments as evaporation or iron hydroxide precipitation. We found that collectors can be adapted to accept large surface (diameter 47mm) cartridges containing a strongly acidic resin (Dowex AG 88) which is able to quantitatively extract radioactivity from rainwater, even during heavy rainfall. The resin can then be measured by gamma-spectrometry. The detection limit is 0.1Bq per sample of resin (80g) for (137)Cs. Natural (7)Be and (210)Pb can also be measured and the activity ratio of both radionuclides is comparable with those obtained through iron hydroxide precipitation and air filter measurements. Occasionally (22)Na has also been measured above the detection limit. A comparison between the evaporation method and the resin method demonstrated that 2/3 of (7)Be can be lost during the evaporation process. The resin method is simple and highly efficient at extracting radioactivity. Because of these great advantages, we anticipate it could replace former rainwater determination methods. Moreover, it does not necessitate the transportation of large rainwater volumes to the laboratory.

MeSH terms

  • Chemistry Techniques, Analytical / methods*
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods*
  • Ion Exchange Resins / chemistry
  • Radioisotopes / analysis*
  • Rain / chemistry*
  • Spectrometry, Gamma / methods
  • Water Pollutants, Radioactive / analysis*


  • Ion Exchange Resins
  • Radioisotopes
  • Water Pollutants, Radioactive