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Title: First results of a simultaneous measurement of tritium and 14C in an ultra-low-background proportional counter for environmental sources of methane

Abstract Simultaneous measurement of tritium and 14C would provide an added tool for tracing organic compounds through environmental systems and is possible via beta energy spectroscopy of sample-derived methane in internal-source gas proportional counters. Since the mid-1960’s atmospheric tritium and 14C have fallen dramatically as the isotopic injections from above-ground nuclear testing have been diluted into the ocean and biosphere. In this work, the feasibility of simultaneous tritium and 14C measurements via proportional counters is revisited in light of significant changes in both the atmospheric and biosphere isotopics and the development of new ultra-low-background gas proportional counting capabilities for small samples (roughly 50 cc methane). A Geant4 Monte Carlo model of a Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) proportional counter response to tritium and 14C is used to analyze small samples of two different methane sources to illustrate the range of applicability of contemporary simultaneous measurements and their limitations. Because the two methane sources examined were not sample size limited, we could compare the small-sample measurements performed at PNNL with analysis of larger samples performed at a commercial laboratory. The dual-isotope simultaneous measurement is well matched for methane samples that are atmospheric or have an elevated source of tritium (i.e. landfillmore » gas). For samples with low/modern tritium isotopics (rainwater), commercial separation and counting is a better fit.« less
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Resource Type:
Journal Article
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Journal Name: Journal of Environmental Radioactivity, 155-156:122-129
Research Org:
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), Richland, WA (US)
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Country of Publication:
United States