Investigating Uranium Isotopic Ratios and Activity Ratios in Groundwaters in the State of Idaho

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Abstract

Analyzing uranium isotopic and activity ratios can give valuable information for hydrologic and environmental studies such as insights to weathering processes, estimating water mixing ratios, and identifying water sources. The authors employed an inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer (ICP-MS) to perform environmental level concentration measurements of isotopic uranium on 380 groundwater samples from various locations within the state of Idaho. The 234U:238U uranium activity ratios (UAR) for these samples range between 0.91 and 6.21, which suggests that the parent 238U is not in equilibrium with its decay product 234U. The 235U:238U isotopic ratio was also measured for each sample to confirm that there was no depleted or enriched uranium present. All 380 samples exhibited the natural isotopic ratios of 235U and 238U isotopes. Therefore, it was concluded that the 234U:238U UARs reflect natural variations in the Idaho groundwater systems.

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