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The limiting amounts of radiation that can be received by a worker is established by federal codes and regulations. Special units that describe radiation exposure for all types of radiation have been developed for this purpose. The objective of radiation protection is to ensure that the amount of radiation received by a worker will be below the established limit and therefore be harmless. In this lecture, instrumentation that is used to measure radiation exposure of individuals and to monitor radiation levels in the plant will be discussed. Also, means of reducing radiation exposure be described.


The best way to avoid becoming a weekend traffic statistic is to stay off the highways. With radiation, too, the best policy is avoidance. But, for those times when avoidance is not possible, the amount of radiation received can be reduced in three basic ways:

(1) by controlling the length of time of exposure (TIME)

(2) by keeping the distance from the radiation source as large as possible (DISTANCE) (3) by placing material between you and the source of radiation.(SHIELD)


If the radiation in a particular area is constant, the exposure of personnel to radiation can be controlled by limiting the amount of time an individual stays in the area. In the Figure, a worker is shown to be exposed to a small amount of radiation for fifteen minutes and for thirty minutes. In thirty minutes, he receives twice the radiation dose he receives in fifteen minutes.


Radiation exposure can be reduced by keeping the distance between the radiation source and the individual as large as possible, as shown in Figure.

If a small radioactive source gives a dose of 100 millirems to someone standing one foot away from it, it will give a dose of only 25 millirems to someone standing two feet away from it and only 4 millirems five feet away. In general, the dose decreases in proportion to the square of the distance from the source.


Alpha radiation can be stopped or shielded with a sheet of paper, while a small thickness of aluminum or plastic will be sufficient shielding for beta radiation. Gamma and neutron radiation require considerably more material for shielding. For gamma radiation, various thicknesses of dense material, such as steel, lead, concrete, or water, can be used to reduce radiation to desired levels.


A convenient concept to use for a rough gamma shielding estimate is the tenth value thickness. The tenth value thickness is the thickness of material that will reduce the radiation level from a source by a factor of ten. The tenth value thickness is a measure of the effectiveness of shielding materials. For example, to shield a relatively high energy gamma source, the tenth value thickness of lead is 1.5 inch, steel is 3.0 inch and water is 24 inch.

Since one cannot see, feel or weigh the radiations, the method of radiation dosimetry depends on measuring the effects of radiations on matter.

These effects include ionization in gases, ionization and excitation in certain solids, changes in chemical systems and activation by neutrons.
Majority of the health physics monitoring instruments use detectors based on ionization of gas. The absorption of radiation in a gas results in the production of ion pairs consisting of a negative ion (the electron) and a positive ion. A moderate voltage applied (~200 to 250V) between two plates (electrodes) in close proximity causes the negative ions to be attracted to the positive electrode (anode) and positive ion to the negative electrode (cathode) This flow of ions constitutes an electric current which is a measure of the intensity of radiation In the gas volume. The current is extremely low (~ 10-12 amperes) and a sensitive electronic circuit (amplifier) is used to measure it. This arrangement is called ionization chamber.


The design of the chamber and the filling gas used depends on the particular application.

In health physics instruments the ionization chamber is usually filled with air and constructed of material of low atomic number.
If the instrument is required to respond to beta radiation the chamber must have thin walls or a thin entrance window (e.g. PDM).


If in an ion chamber system, the applied voltage is increased beyond a certain point, an effect known as gas amplification occurs.

This is because the electrons produced by ionization are accelerated by the applied voltage to a sufficiently high energy to cause further ionization themselves before reaching the anode, and a cascade of ionization results.

Thus a single ionizing particle or photon can produce a pulse of current which is large enough to be detected due to a gas amplification factor of typically ~104.

Over a certain range of voltage (~ 250 to 650V) the size of pulse is proportional to the amount of energy deposited by the original particle or photon and so the system is known as a proportional counter.
The term counter means that the output is a series of pulses, which may be counted by some means rather than an average current like ion chamber.


If the voltage in the ionization system is increased still further (> 800V ) the gas amplification is so great that a single ionizing particle produces an avalanche of ionization resulting in a very large pulse of current. The size of the pulse is the same, regardless of the quantity of energy initially deposited.

In a typical avalanche created by a single original electron, many excited gas molecules are formed by electron collisions in addition to the secondary ion.

The resulting photon due to de-excitation are the key element in the propagation of the chain reaction that makes up the Geiger discharge, in which the multiplication by a single avalanche is ~106 to 108.
The Geiger discharge therefore grows to envelop the entire anode wire, regardless of the position at which the primary initiating event occurred.


In practice both proportional and Geiger-Muller counters are usually constructed in the form of a cylinder which forms the cathode, with a central thin wire which is the anode. The whole is enclosed in a glass or metal tube which is filled with a special gas mixture. The Geiger Muller tube is very widely used in monitoring equipment because it is relatively rugged and can directly operate on a simple output circuit.

Radiation detectors are located in different areas within a nuclear power plant to monitor radiation levels continuously.

Each monitor is connected to a readout device, usually in the reactor control room.
These monitoring stations are equipped to give an audible alarm signal when a radiation level set point is exceeded. The radiation detector is positioned in the plant and wired to an audible alarm box and readout module located in the reactor control room. The alarm is set to go off when radiation reaches a pre-set level. Tripping of the alarm alerts the operator in the reactor control room who reads the actual radiation level on the readout module and takes appropriate action.


Film badge is used to measure beta and gamma radiation exposure.

It is composed of dental sized sheets of photographic film contained in a lightproof wrapper.

The film is darkened by radiation; the larger the radiation exposure, the darker the film. The film package is placed in a plastic frame containing small pieces of three different metals that act as a filter by providing various amounts of shielding to incident radiations.

By comparing the exposure under the three different filters, it is possible to determine the energy of incident gamma rays and the gamma ray dose. Since beta particles do not have enough energy to penetrate the plastic frame, a window is left in the holder to determine beta exposure. A different type of film is used if it is desired to measure neutron exposure.

Another common type of film badges that are used have metal foils in lower section. These foils can be used to determine the exposure of an individual to neutron radiation. The upper section functions just like the previous film badge consisting of a plastic frame with windows and a special slot for photographic film.

A pocket dosimeter is often used in conjunction with a film badge. One type shown is a small electroscope about the size and shape of a fountain pen.

It consists of a small, air-filled chamber in which a movable quartz fiber and a fixed wire element is suspended. A stationary graduated scale can be seen behind the quartz fiber.
The quartz fiber moves to indicate the amount of radiation exposure.

A pocket dosimeter is often used in conjunction with a film badge.

A separate charging unit is used to put a positive charge on both the fixed wire element and the movable quartz fiber; as a result, the quartz fiber is repelled from the wire.
Radiation penetrating the dosimeter forms charged particles. The negative particles collect on the wire and the quartz fiber. As a result, the repulsive force is reduced and the quartz fiber moves closer to the wire.


A recent development in measuring radiation is the thermoluminescent dosimeter, abbreviated as TLD. A TLD utilizes special materials with atoms that are excited to higher energy when exposed to radiation. Upon heating, these excited atoms return to their original energy levels, releasing light in the process. By measuring the amount of light released, the amount of radiation exposure can be determined.

The main application of EDs has been to provide an on-the-job method of dose measurement and control. A new generation of electronic dosemeters has become available, using solid state detectors and taking advantage of developments in information technology. By means of in-built microprocessors and memory they can be programmed to perform a variety of functions, such as logging dose for a specific task or for a shift, or storing information on the characteristics of the radiation field.

With gate entry facilities they can be used as a form of security pass, giving recorded access to controlled areas. The devices therefore offer the advantage of combining the operational dose control and the long-term legal dose measurement functions. An example of a modern electronic dosemeter is shown in Figure.

The disadvantages, compared with film dosemeters or TLD, are that they are relatively costly initially, bulky and are potentially susceptible to electromagnetic fields.


Thallium-activated sodium iodide (NaI(Tl)) detector is the first practical solid detector used for gamma rays and is still the most popular one for this purpose. The gamma rays interact in the detector and they produce electrons and in some cases (E > 1.02 MeV) positrons as well. When these electrons move through the crystal, they excite the atoms and while de-exciting, the atoms produce a small flash of light called scintillation.

When the scintillations fall on the photocathode of the photomultiplier (PM) the electrons are produced.
The initial pulse from photocathode is very small which is amplified in 10 stages, in a series of dynodes known as photomultiplier tube, to get a large enough pulse. Thallium is added into Nal to shift the scintillation spectrum and to match it with the photocathode response.


The main advantage of NaI(Tl) detector is its good detection efficiency.

However, the energy required to produce one electron from photocathode is roughly 1 KeV which reduces the number of information carriers and thus results in poor energy resolution as compared to Ge(Li) or HPGe detectors. Another disadvantage is that NaI(Tl) is hygroscopic and must be enclosed in some material to avoid the absorption of moisture.


Figure (a) on left shows a typical portal monitor that is used to check for possible radioactive contamination on clothing of personnel.

Figure (b) on right below shows a typical hand and shoe monitor that is used to check for possible radioactive contamination on the hands and soles of shoes. These two types of monitors may be located at the exits of controlled or restricted areas within a nuclear power plant.