The half-lives of uranium-234 and thorium-230

Hai Cheng, Larry Edwards, J. Hoff, Christina D Gallup, D. A. Richards, Y. Asmerom

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1064 Scopus citations


We have re-determined the 234U and 230Th half-lives to be 245,250 ± 490 years (2σ) and 75,690 ± 230 years (2σ), respectively. Using high precision thermal ionization mass spectrometric (TIMS) methods, we measured 234U/238U and 230Th/238U atomic ratios in 4 different materials that were likely to have behaved as closed systems for 106 years or more: zircons with concordant 238U-206Pb, 235U-207Pb, and 232Th-208Pb ages, Iceland Spar, Table Mountain Latite, and aliquots of a solution of Harwell uraninite (HU-1). We calibrated the TIMS multipliers using U-500, U and Th gravimetric standards, and U double spike. Consistent 234U/238U values for all measured materials and consistent 230Th/238U values for all materials with the exception of our HU-1 solution support the secular equilibrium status. The new half-lives agree within error with previously determined values; however, errors in our values are generally smaller than those in the earlier determinations. Our 234U half-life is about 3‰ higher than that commonly used in 230Th dating laboratories and our 230Th half-life is about 4‰ higher. 230Th ages calculated with the new half-lives are generally older than those calculated with the previously used half-lives. The difference in age, though, is small throughout the 230Th age range because our revised 234U and 230Th half-lives are offset from earlier values in the same sense (both to higher values). In the case of dating materials older than 350 ka in laboratories that rely solely on gravimetric standardization procedures, use of our decay constants and their associated errors will considerably reduce the errors in age arising from uncertainty in the decay constants. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17-33
Number of pages17
JournalChemical Geology
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 2000

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
All of the authors would like to thank G.J. Wasserburg for his pivotal role in initiating research in this field. We thank James B. Paces, Bassam Ghaleb and Mark Reagan for providing zircon, HU-1 and Table Mountain Latite samples; and Ken Ludwig and Steve Galer for providing critical reviews. This work was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation to R.L.E.


  • Half-life
  • Multiplier calibration
  • Th
  • Th dating
  • U


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