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Radiochemistry and Radionuclide Testing and Analysis

Analytical + Environmental / Radiochemistry

Experienced Radiochemistry Analysis You Can Trust

When it comes to radiochemical analysis, experience matters. Pace® offers one of the most comprehensive environmental radiochemistry testing programs in the United States. Our professionals are experienced in their discipline and dedicated to supporting our clients’ needs for timely, high-quality environmental information. Pace® radiochemistry testing lab credentials include:

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Where Does Radioactivity Come From?

Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (NORM)

Naturally occurring radioactivity has been present since Earth’s creation and can be found in air, water and throughout the planet’s crust. Examples of NORM include long-lived radioactive elements, such as uranium, thorium, and potassium, as well as any of their decay products, including radium and radon. Anthropogenic, or synthetic radioactivity, can also originate from nuclear reactors, the fallout from nuclear weapons testing, nuclear accelerators, and the manufacture of isotopes used for medical purposes. Cosmogenic radioactivity is created when cosmic rays strike the earth, inducing radioactivity in the atmosphere.

Technologically Enhanced Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (TENORM)

When NORM is disturbed or altered from natural settings or present in a technologically enhanced state due to past or present human activities and practices, the material is known as Technologically Enhanced Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (TENORM). “Technologically enhanced” refers to a relative increase in radionuclide concentrations above background radiation levels due to changes to the radiological, physical, and chemical properties of the radioactive material.

Naturally Occurring And Accelerator-produced Radioactive Materials (NARM)

Naturally occurring and accelerator-produced radioactive materials (NARM) are primarily radium-contaminated waste, including medical and industrial radium sources, soils with natural radium, and deposits made by oil and gas inside refinery pipes and well casings.

Why Test For Radioactivity?

Radioactivity is dangerous to humans and the environment because of its ability to interact with and change matter. Radiation is “ionizing,” meaning it has enough energy to remove electrons from atoms or molecules when it passes through or collides with some material.

How Do We Test For Radioactivity?

Radioactivity is measured by detecting atomic disintegrations in a sample and counting the number of events that occur during a specific period. Scientific instruments employ one of five basic technologies: High-Purity Germanium Crystal Detection, Liquid Scintillation Counting, Alpha Scintillation Counting, Alpha Spectroscopy, or Gas Flow Proportional Counting. Prior to detection, specific isotopes are often isolated from the sample matrix through chemical separation.

Pace Scientist working in laboratory. Radiochemistry, Radionuclides, Radiochemical analysis, Radiochemical methods of analysis
Pace Scientist working in laboratory. Radiochemistry, Radionuclides, Radiochemical analysis, Radiochemical methods of analysis

What Is The Common Reporting Convention For Radiochemistry?

Radioactivity measurements involve counting the characteristic atomic disintegrations of an isotope followed by complex statistical calculations. Each measurement has a minimum detectable concentration (MDC), also known as minimum detectable activity or MDA, which varies based on sample amount and elapsed time. Therefore, each sample result consists of three values: the calculated activity, the total propagated uncertainty (TPU), and the MDC, reported as Activity, +/- TPU, MDC. For example, Radium-228 = 6.2 +/- 1.8, 0.95 pCi/L (picocuries per liter).

Unlike environmental chemistry, radiochemistry measurements are not limited by Method Detection Limits (MDLs). Lower MDCs and uncertainties may be obtained through increased sample volumes or count times. Based on experience, the laboratory targets standard MDCs that are below most common regulatory requirements.

Pace® Radiochemistry Testing Services

Pace® supports a wide array of projects for many different industries. Here are just a few of the types of services we offer.

Pace Scientist working in laboratory. Radiochemistry, Radionuclides, Radiochemical analysis, Radiochemical methods of analysis

Radionuclide Test Methods

High Purity Germanium Crystal Detection
Liquid Scintillation Counting
Alpha Spectroscopy
Gas Flow Proportional Counting.
Gamma Spectrometry

How Are Radionuclides Regulated?

The principal federal agencies with responsibilities for radiation protection of the public are the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), and the Department of Energy (DOE). Of these, only EPA and DOE may develop guidance or regulations for TENORM.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)
The NRC has regulatory authority over the storage and disposal of all commercially generated radioactive wastes in the U.S. and the disposal of spent fuel and high-level wastes generated by the Department of Energy.
Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)
The TSCA authorizes the EPA to regulate and screen all chemicals produced or imported into the U.S. to prevent unreasonable health and environmental risks. The EPA may regulate naturally occurring and accelerator-produced radioactive materials (NORM-NARM), including TENORM, which are not subject to regulation under the Atomic Energy Act.
Resource Conservation And Recovery Act (RCRA)
RCRA is a proactive program that regulates municipal and hazardous waste disposal. Under RCRA, NORM-NARM is not defined as a solid waste but must be managed as hazardous waste if it contains hazardous waste.
Safe Drinking Water Act
The EPA regulates radionuclides in drinking water to protect public health. The EPA’s Radionuclides Rule has four federal standards for radionuclides in drinking water. Safe drinking water should have 15 pCi/L (picocuries per liter) or less of alpha particles and 5 pCi/L of combined radium 226/228 or less.
Clean Water Act (CWA)
The CWA is the primary federal law regulating the discharge of pollutants into the nation's surface waters. This includes radioactivity in liquid discharges.
Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act (UMTRCA)
UMTRCA provides for the safe and environmentally sound disposal, long-term stabilization, and control of uranium mill tailings to minimize or eliminate radiation health hazards to the public.
Atomic Energy Act
The Atomic Energy Act (AEA) assures the proper management of source, special nuclear, and byproduct material, including radioactive waste management and disposal.
Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation And Liability Act (CERCLA OR SUPERFUND)
CERCLA, also known as Superfund, gives the EPA broad authority to respond directly to actual or threatened releases of hazardous substances. Remediation of radioactively contaminated sites falls under CERCLA and may also be part of the Atomic Energy Act.
Clean Air Act
The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to set national health-based standards for air pollution. It also requires the government to review, update, and enforce these standards. However, local enforcement is largely left up to the states. Radionuclide releases to the air are subject to the Clean Air Act National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAPs).
Indoor Radon Abatement Act

The Indoor Radon Abatement Act set a long-term goal of making indoor air as radon-free as the ambient, outside air. Currently, no federal, enforceable regulations control indoor radon levels—only guidelines with recommendations and a national goal of indoor radon air concentrations less than or 4 pCi/L.

Numerous states across the U.S. have state-specific regulatory criteria for the presence of radionuclides. Check with the appropriate regulatory body in the state for the most current regulatory requirements and standards.

Additional Resources

Pace® maintains an extensive list of accreditations and certifications to meet environmental compliance and program requirements at the national and state level.