National Physical Laboratory

Modern Methods in Alpha Spectrometry

13 November 2017 - 17 November 2017

This five-day course will begin with a review of the basics of alpha spectrometry and then present a detailed overview of some of the most useful innovations for the analyst. Real-world examples will be emphasised throughout and a 'hands-on' approach will be emphasised with about 60–70% laboratory sessions.

Topics will include:

  • Sources and distribution of radioactive contamination of the environment
  • Basics of sample preparation for alpha spectrometry
  • New approaches to sample preparation
  • Redox chemistry of the actinides (separating actinides by solution chemistry)
  • Use of new types of ion exchange and extraction chromatographic resins
  • Source preparation techniques by electro deposition and micro precipitation techniques
  • Some specific method descriptions including screening procedures
  • Basics of alpha radiation, detectors, sample counting
  • Recommended QA/QC practices
  • Energy and efficiency calibration
  • Prevention of recoil contamination
  • Background and reagent blank corrections
  • Nuclide activity calculations (calculations for U, Th, Pu, Am analysis)
  • Propagation of counting errors, MDAs

The course has been designed so that students new to alpha spectrometry will benefit from the fundamentals being presented; while the more experienced analysts will gain from exposure to a review, as well as the presentation of new and developing techniques.

Students will receive classroom instruction and will work in small groups in the laboratory under close supervision with instructor Dr Bill Burnett (Environmental Radioactivity Measurement Facility, Department of Oceanography, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306, USA).

List of tentative laboratory experiments

Standard experiments:

  1. Review of counting procedures-1 (energy calibration, pulser checks, etc.)
  2. Review of counting procedures-2 (recoil prevention, efficiency, geometry considerations)
  3. Calculation of theoretical counting geometries
  4. Methods of coprecipitation for actinide analyses
  5. U, Th, and Pu in soil via ion exchange procedures
  6. Screening analysis for actinides in water via extraction chromatography
  7. Preparation of counting sources by fluoride microprecipitation/filtration
  8. Electrodeposition of sources and determination of electrodeposition rates
  9. Calculation of sample activities, propagation of counting errors

Additional experiments (by request):

  1. Separation of U, Am, Pu from air filters via extraction chromatography
  2. Radium Isotopes in water samples via alpha spectrometry

This course is being run in conjunction with ORTEC.


NPL, Teddington


£2,410 per person


Registration deadline: 16 October 2017

The course requires a minimum of eight attendees

Register online here



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