In order to assess the levels and behavior of129I (half-life: 1.6×107 y) and127I (stable) in the environment, we have developed analytical procedures involving neutron activation analysis (NAA). Environmental samples collected around Tokaimura, Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan, have been analyzed using this method. Ranges of129I and127I concentrations in surface soil were 0.9–180 mBq kg−1 and 1–60 mg kg−1, respectively. Higher129I concentrations were found in soil samples collected from coniferous forests, suggesting a contribution from tree canopies in the deposition of this nuclide. Most of the129I in soil, was found to be retained in the first 10 cm. The129I/127I ratios in wheat fields were lower than those in rice paddy fields.
A soil sample collected by IAEA from an area contaminated by the Chemobyl accident was also determined. The129I concentration and the129I/127I ratio were 1.6 mBq kg−1 and 1.7×10−7, respectively. The129I level in this sample was higher than the values obtained in areas far from nuclear facilities in Japan. It was suggested that the analysis of129I in soils in the Chernobyl area may be useful in evaluating the131I levels at the time of the accident.
Analyses of129I and127I by ICP-MS in water samples were also made. The analytical speed of this method was very high, i.e., 3 minutes for a sample. However, there is a sensitivity limitation for129I detection due to interference from129Xe with the129I peak. The detection limits for129I and127I in water samples were about 0.5 mBq ml−1 and 0.1 ng ml−1, respectively.