Winkler, Stephan R.; Eigl, Rosmarie; Forstner, Oliver; Martschini, Martin; Steier, Peter; Sterba, Johannes H.; Golser, Robin
Neutron activation analysis using decay counting of the activated element is a well-established method in elemental analysis. However, for chlorine there is a better alternative to measuring decay of the short-lived activation product chlorine-38 (t1/2 = 37.24 min) - accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) of 36Cl: the relatively high neutron capture cross section of chlorine-35 for thermal neutrons (43.7 b) and combined the AMS technique for chlorine-36 (t1/2 = 301 ka) allow for determination of chlorine down to ppb-levels using practical sample sizes and common exposure durations. The combination of neutron activation and AMS can be employed for a few other elements (nitrogen, thorium, and uranium) as well. For bulk solid samples an advantage of the method is that lab contamination can be rendered irrelevant. The chlorine-35 in the sample is activated to chlorine-36, and surface chlorine can be removed after the irradiation. Subsequent laboratory contamination, however, will not carry a prominent chlorine-36 signature. After sample dissolution and addition of sufficient amounts of stable chlorine carrier the produced chlorine-36 and thus the original chlorine-35 of the sample can be determined using AMS. We have developed and applied the method for analysis of chlorine in steel samples. The chlorine content of steel is of interest to nuclear industry, precisely because of above mentioned high neutron capture cross section for chlorine-35, which leads to accumulation of chlorine-36 as long-term nuclear waste. The samples were irradiated at the TRIGA Mark II reactor of the Atominstitut in Vienna and the 36Cl-AMS setup at the Vienna Environmental Research Accelerator (VERA) was used for 36Cl/Cl analysis.