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Accurate measurement of radioactive thoron possible at last
Date:3/7/2011

"Many people are now saying: 'Is it really that easy? Then why didn't anyone think of it a long time ago?' But you have to have the right idea at the right time," says Annette Rttger, physicist at the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB), in a pleased way. Annette Rttger and her scientific team managed to do something that was previously thought to be impossible: they developed a primary standard for the measurement of short-lived radioactive thoron. Thoron measuring instruments from all over the world will now be calibrated at this unique device which is currently the only one of its kind in the world. This is the basis for accurate measurements of radioactive gas, which occurs naturally in the ground, can collect in living areas and whose progenies are considered carcinogenic.

The same as its sister isotope radon (Rn-222), the radioactive gas thoron (Rn-220) can also cause lung cancer through its progenies if these are breathed in over long periods of time and in high concentrations. The degree of the radiation exposure of living areas varies greatly and is dependent on the construction of the house and the way it is ventilated. The measurement of Rn-222 has worked very accurately for a long time, whereas measuring instruments for thoron have delivered results with considerable uncertainties up till now. And what was worse: sometimes the results were simply wrong! The exact measurement of thoron is, however, important for the estimation of risks, as at the same activity concentration, a 14-fold higher radiation level results from the thoron progenies than from the progenies of the Rn-222, which is already measured well.

"It was clear that all thoron measuring instruments need a uniform standard with which they can be calibrated so that all the measurements are comparable, and so that you know the uncertainty of each individual measuring instrument," explains Annette Rttger. But the development of a standard that is valid everywhere
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Contact: Dr. Anntette Roettger
annette.roettger@ptb.de
49-531-592-6130
Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB)
Source:Eurekalert

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