Naturally occurring radioactive material is a problematic by-product of a range of industries and needs to be handled, stored, processed and disposed of in a safe and economic manner. Accurate characterisation of such material should be underpinned by measurement of certified reference materials in order to validate the methods employed and ensure quality control. This work highlights the current shortage of suitable reference materials and the approach being followed to address this issue, initially for the steel and oil and gas industries.
Accurate measurement of natural and anthropogenic radionuclide concentrations is of critical importance to end users in the nuclear sector to ensure correct classification prior to storage, recycling, reprocessing or disposal. Uncertainties in the characterisation of solid matrices and materials could lead to safety, quality and financial implications. Robust sample preparation methods are vital, in particular effective sample digestion, as under-estimated chemical yield recovery results in a corresponding under-estimation of activity levels. Borate fusion has been proven to effectively digest a range of complex sample matrices in the geosciences but is not used routinely elsewhere. In this study, we describe an automated procedure for borate fusion of multiple matrices encountered in nuclear decommissioning, containing diverse radionuclides over a range of activity concentrations. The impact of digestion flux, sample mass and sample to flux ratios are described, as well as the subsequent separation and measurement techniques. The results contribute to accurate and precise measurement of radionuclides in various matrices, as well as to characterisation of reference materials, providing greater confidence in nuclear industry programmes worldwide.
Accurate measurement of naturally occurring radionuclides in blast furnace slag, a by-product of the steel industry, is required for compliance with building regulations where it is often used as an ingredient in cement. A matrix reference blast furnace slag material has been developed to support traceability in these measurements. Raw material provided by a commercial producer underwent stability and homogeneity testing, as well as characterisation of matrix constituents, to provide a final candidate reference material. The radionuclide content was then determined during a comparison exercise that included 23 laboratories from 14 countries. Participants determined the activity per unit mass for 226Ra, 232Th and 40K using a range of techniques. The consensus values obtained from the power-moderated mean of the reported participant results were used as indicative activity per unit mass values for the three radionuclides: A0(226Ra) = 106.3 (34) Bq·kg−1, A0(232Th) = 130.0 (48) Bq·kg−1 and A0(40K) = 161 (11) Bq·kg−1 (where the number in parentheses is the numerical value of the combined standard uncertainty referred to the corresponding last digits of the quoted result). This exercise helps to address the current shortage of NORM industry reference materials, putting in place infrastructure for production of further reference materials. [Display omitted] •Current availability of reference materials for naturally occurring radioactive material has been expanded upon.•A blast furnace slag reference material has been developed to support the steel industry and regulations regarding its use in building materials.•A comparison exercise of 23 laboratories was used to determine consensus values for the activity per unit mass of selected radionuclides.•Infrastructure has been built for future development of reference materials in support of naturally occurring radioactive materials.