February 11, 2021

Collective Analysis of Alpha Particle Losses Due to Self-Absorption by Mass Loading on Radioactive Particulate Glass Fiber Filters


In this study, we derived a relationship between filter mass loading and the percent loss during analysis using the mass loading data collected from six previous studies of self-absorption. Components of mass loading include particulate dust, radioactive particulates, and filter material. In a research report published in 1984, Higby calculated a minimum burial depth for an alpha particle to be lost due to absorption (100% loss) of about 3.7 mg/cm^2 based on calculations for the range of 239-Pu alpha particles in glass fiber filters. From there, Higby concluded that a correction factor of 0.85 assumes approximately 15% losses in the count rate of both alpha and beta particles. In 2000, Luetzelschwab et al. recommended assuming a 40% loss at a loading of 3.3 mg/cm^2 and a 28% loss for a loading of 2.3 mg/cm^2 which included the frontal face mass of the filter. More recently, the 100% losses due to absorption were reported to be in the 10 mg/cm^2 range. Presented here is a trinomial relationship method of relating percent loss due to self-absorption to filter mass loading, based on data reported by Higby, Luetzelschwab et al., Huang et al., Barnett et al., Smith et al., and Hogue et al. Under normal operating conditions at the stacks monitored by Effluent Management, the mass loading of sample filters averages 0.09 ± 0.12 (2s) mg/cm^2 (excluding negative values and outliers) and ranges from 0 mg/cm^2 to 0.24 mg/cm^2. Based on current mass loading results for Effluent Management stack sample filters, the forced-zero trinomial relationship method estimated self-absorption losses of less than 5%. Because American National Standards Institute/Health Physics Society N13.1-2011 guidelines indicate a correction factor should be used when the penetration of radioactive material into the collection media or self-absorption of radiation by the material collected would reduce the count rate by more than 5%, it is possible continued application of a correction factor to the Effluent Management stack samples is no longer necessary. Nevertheless, continuing to assign a correction factor at the 5% threshold (i.e., 0.95) would be a conservative approach.

Revised: February 17, 2021 | Published: February 11, 2021


Edwards H.Z., and J.M. Barnett. 2021. Collective Analysis of Alpha Particle Losses Due to Self-Absorption by Mass Loading on Radioactive Particulate Glass Fiber Filters. PNNL-30964. Richland, WA: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.