Dynamic Radioactive Source for Evaluating and Demonstrating Time-dependent Performance of Continuous Air Monitors

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Evaluation of continuous air monitors in the presence of a plutonium aerosol is time intensive, expensive, and requires a specialized facility. The Radiation Protection Services Group at Los Alamos National Laboratory has designed a Dynamic Radioactive Source, intended to replace plutonium aerosol challenge testing. The Dynamic Radioactive Source is small enough to be inserted into the sampler filter chamber of a typical continuous air monitor. Time-dependent radioactivity is introduced from electroplated sources for real-time testing of a continuous air monitor where a mechanical wristwatch motor rotates a mask above an alpha-emitting electroplated disk source. The mask is attached to the watch’s minute hand, and as it rotates, more of the underlying source is revealed. The measured alpha activity increases with time, simulating the arrival of airborne radioactive particulates at the air sampler inlet. The Dynamic Radioactive Source allows the temporal behavior of puff and chronic release conditions to be mimicked without the need for radioactive aerosols. The new system is configurable to different continuous air monitor designs and provides an in-house testing capability (benchtop compatible). It is a repeatable and reusable system and does not contaminate the tested air monitor. Test benefits include direct user control, realistic (plutonium) aerosol spectra, and iterative development of continuous air monitor alarm algorithms. Data obtained using the Dynamic Radioactive Source has been used to elucidate alarm algorithms and to compare the response time of two commercial continuous air monitors.

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