Occupational Health and Safety In Metallurgical Plants

CIM Bulletin, Vol. 71, No. 793, 1978

John C. Bobbins, Head, Analytical Instrumentation Section, Scintrex Ltd., Concord, Ontario

A new technique for the determination of trace levels of uranium in solution has been developed. A compact laser emits short, but intense, ultraviolet pulses to excite the green fluorescence of a uranyl-complex formed by the addition of a proprietary reagent to the sample. Organic species present in most natural waters also fluoresce quite intensely, but their emission does not last appreciably longer than the excitation pulse, in contrast to the relatively long persistence of the uranyl fluorescence. Electronic 'gating' is employed to separate the long-lived contribution, rejecting substantially the organic emission. Results using the laser fluorescence method on many sets of natural waters of various origins have been compared against corresponding values generated by independent laboratories. Correlation has been generally good over a range from less than 0.1 to more than 100 ppb U. Solid samples have also been analyzed after extraction of the uranium into solution. Accuracies adequate for most exploration purposes have been achieved, but further work is required to determine effects of interferences in samples with complex matrices. The transport and deposition of uranium in natural waters is controlled by the organic and inorganic chemistry of the waters involved. It is suggested that interpretation of very low uranium levels will be aided by additional measurements of conductivity and organic content, with subsequent statistical treatment.
Keywords: Exploration, Geochemical exploration, Uranium exploration, Fluorescence, Laser fluorescence, Surface waters, Ground waters.