Investigation of the limits of detection for specific radionuclides in soil from the European Spallation Source (ESS) using radiometric and mass spectrometric methods

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This study provides information about the concentration of Tungsten (W), Hafnium (Hf) and Tantal (Ta) in the ESS soil and recommendations on the most appropriate sample preparation and measurement technique to assess contamination by these elements. The current levels of W, Hf and Ta measured in this study are in agreement with the estimated values from previous geological surveys. ICP MS showed low limits of detection for W, Hf and Ta and is thus an appropriate technique for environmental monitoring. However, the three metals are difficult to extract from soil and require the use of specific sample preparation methods (based on hydrofluoric acid for example). The transfer of stable W, Hf and Ta from soil to plant is poorly known and only a handful of publications can be found that are relevant to the plants grown around the ESS. The transfer of the radioisotopes of W, Hf and Ta in particular to animals (and man) is even less studied. However, the existing articles indicate a fast excretion of radio-W and radio-Ta while the excretion is slow for radio-Hf.

The Minimum Detectable Activity (MDA) for gamma emitter released from the ESS facility will depend not only on the performances of the detection equipment but also on the composition of tungsten target at the time of the release. The determination of limits of detection of ESS related gamma emitters was performed using a strategy based on simulation of spectra. Semi-synthetic gamma spectra were obtained by combining real soil measurements with simulated data for mixtures of ESS radionuclides using the software Nucleonica. The simulation of 187W spectra was used as a proof of concept for the method. With this approach, it is possible to estimate limits of detection by gamma spectroscopy for a given target composition. The limits of detection of four relevant radionuclides were successfully determined for two different compositions of the ESS target and at three different activity concentrations in soil.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages50
Publication statusPublished - 2023 Oct

Publication series

ISSN (Electronic)2000-0456

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Other Physics Topics
  • Environmental Sciences

Free keywords

  • European Spallation Source (ESS)
  • trace element analysis
  • ICP-MS
  • gamma spectrometry
  • detection limits

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