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Title: Development of a Low-Level Ar-37 Calibration Standard

Argon-37 is an important environmental signature of an underground nuclear explosion. Producing and quantifying low-level 37Ar standards is an important step in the development of sensitive field measurement instruments for use during an On-Site Inspection, a key provision of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. This paper describes progress at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in the development of a process to generate and quantify low-level 37Ar standard material, which can then be used to calibrate sensitive field systems at activities consistent with soil background levels. The 37Ar used for our work was generated using a laboratory-scale, high-energy neutron source to irradiate powdered samples of calcium carbonate. Small aliquots of 37Ar were then extracted from the head space of the irradiated samples. The specific activity of the head space samples, mixed with P10 (90% stable argon:10% methane by mole fraction) count gas, is then derived using the accepted Length-Compensated Internal-Source Proportional Counting method. Due to the low activity of the samples, a set of three Ultra-Low Background Proportional-Counters designed and fabricated at PNNL from radio-pure electroformed copper was used to make the measurements in PNNL’s shallow underground counting laboratory. Very low background levels (<10 counts/day) have been observed in the spectral regionmore » near the 37Ar emission feature at 2.8 keV. Two separate samples from the same irradiation were measured. The first sample was counted for 12 days beginning 28 days after irradiation, the second sample was counted for 24 days beginning 70 days after irradiation (the half-life of 37Ar is 35.0 days). Both sets of measurements were analyzed and yielded very similar results for the starting activity (~0.1 Bq) and activity concentration (0.15 mBq/ccSTP argon) after P10 count gas was added. A detailed uncertainty model was developed based on the ISO Guide to the Expression of Uncertainty in Measurement. This paper presents a discussion of the measurement analysis, along with assumptions and uncertainty estimates.« less
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Journal Article
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Journal Name: Applied Radiation and Isotopes, 109:430-434
Research Org:
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), Richland, WA (US)
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Country of Publication:
United States
Absolute radiation measurement; Length compensated proportional counting; Ultra low-background; Electroformed copper; Uncertainty Analysis