Low-level Radioactivity Measurements

Introduction

The Low Level Radioactivity Measurements (LRM) expert group is specialised in monitoring radioactivity in:

  • Food and feeding stuff (monitoring food chain)
  • Environmental samples (monitoring environment)
  • Biological samples (monitoring professionally exposed workers)
  • Specific samples emerging from scientific research (support measurements)

A group of more than 20 persons runs several laboratories to manage sampling, sample preparation and analytical measurements. 

Samples are measured in different detector rooms according to the type of radiation emitted:  gamma-rays, alpha- and beta particles or the type of element present in the sample (Kinetic Phosphorescence Analysis for uranium and Neutron Activation Analysis for the determination of trace amounts in samples).  

LRM continues to extend their current accreditation (according to ISO 17025 by BELAC) with new techniques and services.  We offer these services to internal and external customers and we also advise and inform them about radioactivity in their products and related issues. Our laboratories also play a key-role in nuclear emergency situations (such as nuclear incidents or accidents).

Main activities

  • Sampling of surface waters, rain water, air dust, soil and sediments, vegetation, food,…
  • Collection and management of bio-assay samples
  • Primary sample preparations (drying, freeze drying, grinding, sieving, calcination, evaporation, acidification of liquids)
  • Chemical separations of e.g. I, Sr, U, Pu, Am, Np, Th, Cm, Po
  • Sample preparation with electroplating for alpha spectrometry
  • Alpha spectrometry with PIPS detectors
  • Gross alpha counting with ZnS scintillator detectors, including Lucas cell set up for 226Ra and 222Rn measurements
  • Gross alpha and beta counting with proportional counters
  • Liquid scintillation counting of beta and alpha emitters
  • Uranium analysis in aqueous samples with Time Resolved Kinetic Phosphorescence Analyzer (TR-KPA)
  • Gamma-ray spectrometry with shielded HPGe detectors
  • Neutron activation analysis (NAA) based on k0 method

Applications

  • Bio-assay for workers from the nuclear industry (nose blow, urine, faeces)
  • Radioactivity analysis in food and feeding stuffs for certification purposes in export/import and for monitoring the food chain
  • Radioactivity monitoring of drinking water
  • Radioactivity monitoring in samples from nuclear installations
  • Radioactivity monitoring in various environmental samples
  • Radioactivity measurements in the frame work of NORM
  • Radioactivity monitoring for process control
  • Radioactivity measurements on samples as support to the scientific research programmes of SCK•CEN
  • Determination of element concentration in various samples using NAA and TR-KPA

Projects

Radiological monitoring

The laboratories of LRM are one of the main partners in the elaboration of the radiological monitoring of the Belgian territory performed under the responsibility of the Federal Agency of Nuclear Control (FANC/AFNC). Our contribution is based on periodic measurements of samples, collected in predefined locations, to monitor the levels of natural and artificial radioactivity in the environment.  Data are gathered in databases and reported trimestral to FANC. More information on the FANC website.

Monitoring of food

LRM is recognised by the National Food Agency (FAVV/AFSCA) for the monitoring of radioactivity in food.  Samples taken by the Agency are analysed in our laboratories. 
In the framework of export licencing we also perform measurement for other customers.

NORM and NORM-related analysis

Industrial use of materials containing natural occurring radioactive material (NORM) produces material streams of varying radioactivity content. For reasons of process control or monitoring of the radioactivity content of these materials LRM measures samples from various industries.

Bio-assay

LRM is involved in the monitoring programmes of internal contamination of occupationally exposed workers in several nuclear industries in the Mol-Dessel region.  For that purpose it analyses urine samples for routine monitoring and in case of incidents or accidents nose-blow samples and faeces samples.

Services & Consultancy

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Head of Expert GroupMichel Bruggeman