Determination of ¹³⁵Cs and ¹³⁷Cs in environmental samples: A review

Anal Chim Acta. 2015 Aug 26;890:7-20. doi: 10.1016/j.aca.2015.06.037. Epub 2015 Aug 8.


Radionuclides of caesium are environmentally important since they are formed as significant high yield fission products ((135)Cs and (137)Cs) and activation products ((134)Cs and (136)Cs) during nuclear fission. They originate from a range of nuclear activities such as weapons testing, nuclear reprocessing and nuclear fuel cycle discharges and nuclear accidents. Whilst (137)Cs, (134)Cs and (136)Cs are routinely measurable at high sensitivity by gamma spectrometry, routine detection of long-lived (135)Cs by radiometric methods is challenging. This measurement is, however, important given its significance in long-term nuclear waste storage and disposal. Furthermore, the (135)Cs/(137)Cs ratio varies with reactor, weapon and fuel type, and accurate measurement of this ratio can therefore be used as a forensic tool in identifying the source(s) of nuclear contamination. The shorter-lived activation products (134)Cs and (136)Cs have a limited application but provide useful early information on fuel irradiation history and have importance in health physics. Detection of (135)Cs (and (137)Cs) is achievable by mass spectrometric techniques; most commonly inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS), as well as thermal ionisation (TIMS), accelerator (AMS) and resonance ionisation (RIMS) techniques. The critical issues affecting the accuracy and detection limits achievable by this technique are effective removal of barium to eliminate isobaric interferences arising from (135)Ba and (137)Ba, and elimination of peak tailing of stable (133)Cs on (135)Cs. Isobaric interferences can be removed by chemical separation, most commonly ion exchange chromatography, and/or instrumental separation using an ICP-MS equipped with a reaction cell. The removal of the peak tailing interference is dependent on the instrument used for final measurement. This review summarizes and compares the analytical procedures developed for determination of (135)Cs/(137)Cs, with particular focus on ICP-MS detection and the methods applied to interference separation.

Keywords: Chemical separation; Inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry; Interference removal; Nuclear forensics; Nuclear waste; Radiocaesium isotopes.

Publication types

  • Review