Nuke Radiation Detector Aids Cleanup

Friday, January 7, 2011 @ 04:01 PM gHale

A new type of radiation detection and measurement device can help cleanup sites with radioactive contamination, making the process faster, more accurate and less expensive.

Hundreds of millions of dollars go toward cleanup of some major sites contaminated by radioactivity, primarily from the historic production of nuclear weapons during and after the World War II. These include the Hanford site in Washington, Savannah River site in South Carolina, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

A new patented radiation spectrometer, which will soon start production, will be the head product of a Corvallis-based spin-off company, Avicenna Instruments, based on the Oregon State University research.

“Unlike other detectors, this spectrometer is more efficient, and able to measure and quantify both gamma and beta radiation at the same time,” said David Hamby, an OSU professor of health physics. “Before this two different types of detectors and other chemical tests were needed in a time-consuming process.”

“This system will be able to provide accurate results in 15 minutes that previously might have taken half a day,” Hamby said. “That saves steps, time and money.”

The spectrometer, developed over ten years by Hamby and Abi Farsoni, an assistant professor in the College of Engineering, can quickly tell the type and amount of radionuclides that are present in something like a soil sample — contaminants such as cesium 137 or strontium 90 — that were produced from reactor operations. And it can distinguish between gamma rays and beta particles, which is necessary to determine the level of contamination.

“Cleaning up radioactive contamination is something we can do, but the process is costly, and often the question when working in the field is how clean is clean enough,” Hamby said. “At some point the remaining level of radioactivity is not a concern. So we need the ability to do frequent and accurate testing to protect the environment while also controlling costs.”

This system should allow that, Hamby said, and may eventually see use in monitoring processes in the nuclear energy industry, or possibly medical applications in the use of radioactive tracers.

The OSU College of Engineering has contracted with Ludlum Instruments, a Sweetwater, Texas, manufacturer, to produce the first instruments, and the OSU Office of Technology Transfer is seeking a licensee for commercial development. The electronic systems for the spectrometers will undergo production in Oregon by Avicenna Instruments, the researchers said.

One Response to “Nuke Radiation Detector Aids Cleanup”

  1. […] Strontia was later found to be a compound of strontium and oxygen. In 1808, Davy found a way to produce pure strontium metal. He passed an electric current through molten (melted) strontium chloride. The electric current broke the compound into its two elements. Strontium is a silvery-white, shiny metal. When exposed to air, it combines with oxygen to form a thin film of strontium oxide (SrO). The film gives the metal a yellowish color. With a melting point of about 757°C (1,395°F), boiling point of 1,366°C (2,491°F), and density of 2.6 grams per cubic centimeter, strontium is so active it must be stored under kerosene or mineral oil. In this way, the metal does not come into contact with air. In a finely divided or powdered form, strontium catches fire spontaneously and bums vigorously. Strontium is active enough to combine even with hydrogen and nitrogen when heated. The Also you can read this related blog page: […]

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.