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Selenium - Results from on-site Radiography

by MDS Nordion
Agiris Department
Zoning Industriel
B-6220 Fleurus
Tel.: +32 71 82 3571 Fax.: +32 71 82 3671 e-mail:

1 Introduction
2 Selenium Sources
3 Results from on-site Radiography
4 Gamma Radiography Devices
5 Summary
6 References

1 Introduction
Weld inspection on oil and gas pipelines as well as in chemical and petrochemical production
plants has always been one of the most important areas of gamma radiography.
Gammagraphic inspection is performed either in a double-wall single image technique using
conventional portable gammagraphic equipment with the source located outside of the pipe.
Alternatively, self-propelled pipeline crawlers have been designed to travelinside the pipe line.
Gammagraphic weld inspection in the lower range of steel thicknesses has been done with
Iridium and 169Ytterbium isotope sources throughout the past. The large majority of
applications has been using 192Iridium due to the unfavourable economical parameters of
Ytterbium, obviously with non-optimal results at thin wall inspections.
Recently we have made available the isotope 75Selenium for non-destructive testing. These
sources offer technical specifications as required by industrial applications and provide
various advantages when compared with other radiation sources.
The paper presents the results from systematic comparisons of contrast and resolution
obtained with different types of radiation sources on steel thicknesses from 5 to 40 mm. These
results have been taken into account with the definitions of the European standard for
radiographic inspection of weldments (EN 1435) that is approved since 1997. Conclusions
from practical investigations on pipe line sites, in petrochcemical plants and in nuclear power
stations will be discussed as well. Furthermore, the presentation will stipulate a variety of
advantages obtained from the new source in terms of collimation and radiation protection.
For wall thicknesses of typically 2-30 mm of steel 75Selenium has meanwhile become well
accepted in international radiography with the clearly legible trend to be the preferential
choice in the near future.

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2 Selenium Sources
The main technical specifications of the isotope sources 192Iridium, 75Selenium and
Ytterbium are included in Table 1. The spectrum of 75Selenium is dominated by two lines
of energy at 137 keV and 265 keV; the total spectrum consists of nine lines in the range from
66 to 401 keV. The resultant average energy of 217 keV is significantly lower than the
average energy of 353 keV for 192Iridium. This lower energy provides better contrasts of

Isotope Yb-169 Se-75 Ir-192

Energy Range /kev 63-308 66-401 206-612

Average Energy /keV 145 217 353

Typical. Steel Thickness /mm 2-10 2-30 10-60

Halflife / d 32 120 74

R/(h*Ci) at 1m dist. 0.125 0.203 0.48

Table 1: Characteristic attributes of the isotopes used in gamma radiography of weldments.

Table 2 illustrates the above stipulated differnce of gamma spectra.

75 192
Selenium Iridium
100 % 100 %

80 80

60 60

40 40

20 20

0 0

Table 2: Gamma ray spectra of 75Selenium and 192Iridium.

A further advantage is the 75Selenium halflife of 120 days, which is 60% more when
compared to 192Iridium and a factor of approx. 4 when compared to 169Ytterbium. These
differences turn out to be an important economical aspect when comparing the different
sources, as they are a direct measure of the useful life of sources.

Selenium 75
The short halflife and the very high costs for 169Ytterbium sources have been the main factors
for the rather low importance of 169Ytterbium in the full range of gamma radiography.
As visualized by the different radiation constants of 0.48 (192Iridium) and 0.203 (75Selenium)
exposure times differ by an approximate factor of 2.5 with slight variations depending on the
actual material thicknesses under inspection.
The physical properties of the 75Selenium also offer big advantages with respect to radiation
shielding and beam collimation. Within the comparison of radiation isodose areas the required
area-radius for a survey of 40µSv/h result in a shut off area that is for 75Selenium only half the
size as for 192Iridium. Sources of similar activity and collimators of same absorbtion value
(95%) have been used to obtain values as mentioned in Table 3 below.


R 5,2

Table 3: Radiation isodose radius obtained with 10Ci 75Selenium and 192Iridium.

Table 4 shows, the sources are available with physical sizes ranging from 1 mm x 1 mm up to
3 mm x 3 mm. They are produced from firmly compressed selenium pellets of cylindrical
shape. The activities range up to 3 TBq or 80 Ci, which is the maximum allowed loading of
the GAMMAMAT® SE portable isotope transport and working container, as well as the Source
Projector M-Se crawler camera.

Source Dimension Activities

[mm x mm] GBq Ci
1.0 x 1.0 74-148 2-4
1.5 x 1.5 296-555 8-15
2.0 x 2.0 666 1221 18-33
2.5 x 2.5 1295-2405 35-65
3.0 x 3.0 2400-3000 65-80

Table 4: Source dimensions and activities.

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3 Results from on-site Radiography
Various authors [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7] have reported about their results when taking radiographs
of weldments using 75Selenium and/or 192Iridium and/or X-rays. A systematic study regarding
the specific contrast as well as the unsharpnesses derived when using CERL double wire
penetrameters has been performed by the Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und -prüfung
(BAM) [5]. These results have been the basis to suggest the isotope 75Selenium to be included
in the European standard for radiographic weld inspection (EN 1435) within a thickness range
of 10(14) to 40 mm of steel in class A (B) and down to 5 mm by agreement between the
contracting parties whereas the legal inspection range for 192Iridium can only be reduced to
10mm. The standard is implemented and in force since October 1997
The results undoubtedly show a significant improvement of contrast of 75Selenium
radiographs compared to 192Iridium in the complete range of wall thicknesses as can be
foreseen by the difference in radiation energies.
Under practical conditions this can be measured/visualized by the difference in the detection
of wire IQI’s. The published results (e.g. [2,3,4]) show a difference of approximately 1 - 2
wires below 10 mm of steel thickness and 1 wire above in favour of 75Selenium.
Due to the possibility of selecting the radiation energy of X-ray tubes in accordance with the
material thickness under investigation there is another increase in wire sensitivity at low steel
thicknesses. Starting from approx. 20 - 25 mm steel thickness the differences between X-rays
and 75Selenium decrease and merge at about 40 mm.




Numer prêc ika DIN
DIN Wire No.

Se - 75 Ir - 192

Table 5: Comparison of wire IQI sensitivities obtained with 75Selenium and 192Iridium for
different pipe diameters and thicknesses (DW=double wall, SW=single wall)[2].

Selenium 75

rednica prêcika DIN

0,15 X-Ra ys



0 10 20 30 40 Fe mm 50

Table 6: Comparison of CERL double wire sensitivity vs. steel thickness for Selenium,
Iridium and X-rays [4]

The results regarding resolution as measured by CERL double wire IQI’s show results for a
class G2 film very close to those obtained by X-rays. Some results from the large range of
published data are summarized in fig. 5 and 6.

4 Gamma Radiography Devices

For pipelines of diameter less than 6“ or those without open end through which a pipeline
crawler can be entered the GAMMAMAT®SE can be used for double wall inspection of
weldments. The GAMMAMAT®SE has already been described in detail elsewhere [1]. This
portable isotope transport and working container is the handiest gammagraphic equipment
available. It offers a maximum loading of 3 TBq (80Ci) of 75Selenium at an incredibly low
weight of only 7.2 kg, which is a factor of 2 - 3 when compared to variuos 192Iridium
gammagraphic apparatus. The design is in accordance to the latest draft of ISO 3999 and
offers a unique source safety and control system that is supported by a range of various
accessories. Among others the recently available plug and twist collimators from tungsten
shall be mentioned.
For more than 25 years GAMMAMAT®M self-propelled pipeline crawlers are known for their
outstanding performance and reliabilty in pipeline testing whether it is in coldest polar regions
or hottest dessert surroundings. GAMMAMAT®M travel inside the pipleline and provide the
user with single wall single image radiographs of the welded joints. The small model
GAMMAMAT®M6 can be used in pipelines of diameters ranging from 6“to 18“, the big
GAMMAMAT®M18 has been designed for use in pipelines with diameters from 18 to 60“.
The GAMMAMAT®M isotope pipeline crawlers previously have been used with exposure
cameras for 192Iridium; the models M6 and M18 used exposure units designed for a maximum
loading of 2.2 TBq (60Ci) and 3.7 TBq (100Ci), respectively.
Introducing the 75Selenium for gammagraphic weld inspection at significantly improved
quality levels of the radiographs we have also designed an exposure unit for 75Selenium.

Selenium 75
This unit is fully compatible with both models, M6 and M18. Different from the exposure
units for 192Iridium, which are Type B(U) containers, the Source Projector M-SE for
Selenium is a Type A container with a maximum loading of 3 TBq (80Ci) 75Selenium. This
new exposure unit is of significantly lower weight comparing to the advantages of the portable
GAMMAMAT®SE apparatus. The most important practical advantage is the use of a standard
Selenium link-type source holder as is used with the GAMMAMAT®SE. This provides highest
flexibility for NDT companies working in pipeline inspection by easy way of on-site source
exchange within few minutes.
Practical applications [2] of a GAMMAMAT®M model using the new 75Selenium crawler
camera loaded with approx. 1 TBq (30Ci) on a pipeline of diameter 12’’ and wall thickness of
0.25’’ showed 6-7 m axial distance to the exposed source as limit of the radiation controlled
area (40µSv/h) and 22m perpendicular to the pipeline. Other authors [3] have reported about a
comparison for Ir-192 and 75Selenium source on a 4.5’’ diameter pipe and 0.125’’ steel
thickness; they have found for 0.7 Tbq (18Ci) 75Selenium a value of 10m behind the film (in
the unshielded beam) comparing under same conditions to approx. 40m for 192Iridium.

5 Summary
The establishment of 75Selenium as a source for gamma radiography provides greatly
improved results. Lower gamma ray energies provide greater radiographic contrast, smaller
controlled areas and enhanced radiation protection. A longer halflife ensures economic
benefits. The use of lighter weight exposure containers and crawler projectors has prooved to
be beneficial from the viewpoints of operator productivity and safety. 75Selenium is included
in the European standrad for weld inspection.
For radiography in wall thicknesses of typically 2-30 mm of steel 75Selenium has meanwhile
become well accepted in international radiography with the clearly legible trend to be the
preferential choice in the near future.

6 References
[1] C. Sauerwein, G. Isenhardt, R. Link, K. Weinlich; DGZfP Jahrestagung,
Timmendorfer Strand1 (1994)
[2] H. Witte, R. Grimm, G. Isenhardt, C. Sauerwein, U. Ewert; DGZfP Jahrestagung,
Aachen (1995)
[3] H. Thiele, A. Hecht, U. Steinhoff; DGZfP Jahrestagung, Aachen (1995)
[4] U. Ewert; Treatment about the Application Range of Selenium; Bundesanstalt für
Materialforschung und -prüfung (BAM)
[5] J. Müller, S. Rachny, H. Wessel; DGZfP Jahrestagung, Aachen (1995)
[6] U. Ewert, L. Löffler, R. Grimm, C. Sauerwein, J. Müller, H. Wessel, G.-R. Tillack, C.
Bellon; Annual Conference of the British Institute of NDT, Chester (1995)
[7] J.J. Munro III, R. Grimm, T. Kaftal; ASNT Spring Conference, Norfolk VA (1996)

Selenium 75