Implementing field portable x-ray fluorescence during environmental investigations for radioactive materials

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Title: Implementing field portable x-ray fluorescence during environmental investigations for radioactive materials
Author: Miller, Neil
Abstract: During sampling or remediation of radiologically contaminated sites quantitative results are needed to determine where to sample or where to excavate soils. Although some portable gamma spectroscopy equipment does exist for field identification of radionuclides, they are not commonly used during remedial investigations. The current, and very common, process for sampling involves scanning soil with field portable gross measuring radiation detectors (i.e. Sodium Iodide, Scintillation, etc) that measure counts per minute of ionizing radiation; this does not give any information on the nuclides present or their concentrations in the soil. Samples are then collected at biased locations, based on the results of the field detectors, and sent to an on-site or off-site laboratory for analysis (i.e. gamma-spectroscopy, alpha-spectroscopy, etc) to determine what nuclides are in the soil and quantitate their concentration. If an on-site laboratory is not used it may take a few weeks to receive data back from off-site analysis, which inhibits real-time decision making while sampling and adds costs to a project. One potential method to determine real-time concentrations of metals in soil is through the use of a field portable x-ray fluorescence (XRF) device. This thesis will examine the relationship between laboratory isotopic thorium and uranium to XRF results of elemental uranium and thorium which are contaminants of concern found at Formally Utilized Remedial Action Program (FUSRAP) sites. The FUSRAP properties were contaminated during the United States early atomic weapons era and are being remediated by the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) as part of a federal remediation program. Both thorium and uranium are radioactive metals that will be investigated to determine if XRF devices can detect their presence at environmental levels of significance to assist in the investigation and remediation of future FUSRAP projects.
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Date: 2011

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