Original Date: 06/23/1997
Revision Date: 01/18/2007
Best Practice : Radiological Counting Program
Letterkenny Army Depot (LEAD) routinely handles many types of radiological materials while conducting Depot operations. Many of these materials are in the optical and guidance systems of the vehicles and missiles processed by the Depot. In order to comply with safety and Nuclear Regulatory Commission regulations, a 100% survey of all commodities containing radioisotopes in receiving, shipping, or storage is required. To accomplish these surveys, the Depot maintains a dedicated radiological counting facility (RCF).
The counting facility has been in operation about seven years. Prior to that, the program was poorly focused and ineffective due to outdated and unreliable equipment to conduct the required analysis surveys. The equipment in use at that time had limited sample capacity, required manual data reduction, and had lengthy calibration times. There were no adequate systems or processes for survey tracking and traceability. Slow turnaround times for survey results often delayed operations. The counting facility and its highly temperature-sensitive counting equipment were located in a warehouse with inadequate environmental controls. The impetus for change occurred when mishandling of radiological material resulted in a major Tritium contamination of the industrial radiological facility which required more than $1 million and 18 months to clean up.
This accident highlighted the need for state-of-the-art instrumentation; modern data and record keeping systems; improved quality control; improved environmental and hazardous material controls; effective training programs; and assignment of dedicated personnel. A mobile trailer was purchased which provided adequate space for new laboratory instruments. The trailer had temperature and humidity controls, was self-contained, and could be easily moved if necessary. New equipment included two advanced liquid scintillation counters and a low alpha/beta proportional counter. These instruments provided the capability for high sample capacities, accurate measurements, and interface with personal computer systems for data capture and analysis. A full-time physical science technician was assigned to manage the RCF and serve as the assistant Radiation Protection Officer. All survey activities are logged and assigned tracking numbers for traceability. A suite of software tools is used for data reduction, analysis, and charting.
The new facility and equipment provide a state-of-the-art capability that has reduced analysis time, increased survey efficiency, and provided effective radiological controls. The net results show more efficient and timely operations without delays due to survey backups; improved safety; and the amount of radiological hazardous waste has been reduced by 98% by switching to a biodegradable scintillation solution.
For more information see the
Point of Contact for this survey.