Exercise: Working With Radioactive Material

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In the first exercise you are going to learn how to use a contamination detector ("monitor") to identify contaminated equipment or areas. The monitor ("Automess") contains a simple gas-filled chamber in which the ionizing radiation is detected (proportional or Geiger-Müller detector). Your supervisor will instruct you on how to use the detector.

In your journal, you are required to write down the important things to remember when using the monitor.

Task 1: Measurements with the external probe Perform the following measurements with the probe connected to the hand-held monitor, in each case measure five times with ~30 s intervals:

The count rate (counts per second – cps) at the following places: Close to the laboratory bench. Inside the fume hood. Outside of the laboratory.

Was there any significant difference for the three places?

Task 2: Measurements with the internal probe Remove the probe (unplug the cable from the instrument - be careful so that you destroy the cable¸ ask for help if unsure).

The "Automess" hand-held monitor has a built in probe which is constructed in such a way that it will accurately measure external radiation dose (for γ radiation) for an extensive range of energies and intensities. Dose rate is a measurement of how much “strain” the radiation gives the body. It is measured in Sievert (Sv) per unit time. Sievert is a large unit and dose rate is therefore presented in μSv per hour (the instrument switches to mSv in high radiation field, but this should not happen in low-level training labs!). For comparision, the natural background radiation (in Norway) will give you a yearly dose of about 3-4 mSv (~0.5 μSv per hour).

Measure the dose rate at the same places as you measured the count rate!

Task 3: Measure a strong γ source Reconnect the probe. There is a source placed on one of the benches in the laboratory (the place is clearly labeled). The source is well shielded, but there is an opening where you can insert the probe so that it will "see" the source.

Write down the source strength and nucleus. What is the count rate of the source?

Task 4: Calibration of the external probe In the lab you will find a 90Y/90Sr calibration probe with a disintegration rate of 30 Bq/cm2.

Measure the count rate about 0.5 cm and 5 cm from the surface. What is the relationship between disintegration rate and measured count rate? (I.e. what is the efficiency of the detector).

A surface is regarded as contaminated if the disintegration rate is above 4 Bg/cm2 (for γ and β radiation). For the monitor you are using, will you be able to measure such a disintegration rate? What is the detection limit of your monitor?

Task 5: Find a contamination on a surface One of the laboratory benches shall be checked for contamination. For this particular exercise, we have covered and sealed the contamination (not normally the case). Thus, there is no need to worry that you by accident will become contamination. However, for the purpose of training you should observe the same precautions as if it had been a real (unprotected) contamination.  



In the first exercise you are going to learn how to use a contamination detector to find contaminated equipment or areas. The monitor is a simple gass filled chamber able to detect radiation (Geiger-Müller detector). Your supervisor will show you how to use the detector.

The student must write a short description of the things that are important to remember when using the detector:






Do the following measurements with the probe connected to the hand held detector:

The count rate (counts per second – cps ) on the following places:
The laboratory bench …................ cps
Inside of the fume hood …............... cps
outside of the laboratory …................ cps

Was there any significant difference in the counting from the three places?



Remove the probe - be careful so that you don’t pull the cable (Ask the lab-assistant). The hand held detector is calibrated to measure dose rate. Dose rate is a measurement of how much “strain” the radiation gives the body. It is measured in Sievert (Sv) per unit time. Sievert is a large unit and dose rate is therefore often given in μSv per hour. In comparision, the natural background radiation will give you a yearly dose of about 4 mSv (0.46μSv per hour)
measure the dose the same places you measured the count rate.

The laboratory bench …................ μSv/h
Inside of the fume hood …............... μSv/h
outside of the laboratory …................ μSv/h

Reconnect the probe. There is a source placed on one of the benches in the laboratory ( the place should be clearly marked). The source is well shielded, but you can insert the probe past it, so that you can see what happens when the probe finds the activity.

Identify the source?.....................
What is the count rate of the source?......................cps

One of the laboratory benches shall be controlled for contamination. For this part of the exercise the contamination is covered and sealed. There is no need to worry that you will receive any contamination on yourself or your clothes. Therefore the exercise can be done outside of the fume hoods. You should still take the same precautions you would as if it had been a unprotected contamination.

It is very important that you manage these exercises since in exercise Measurement of 99mTc gamma-spectrum and Yield of Tc in Liquid-Liquid Extraction you will work with activety that is not sealed and then you must be able to identify eventual contaminations


Find the contamination(s) on the benches. Draw in the approximate position and give the count rate for each contaminated are on the drawing.