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Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration

Pages: 7

Publication Date:
Jan 1, 1981

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Abstract

INTRODUCTION According to a recent analysis by Schiager et al.(1981), inhalation of radon daughters continues to contribute the largest risk from exposure to radioactive materials in underground uranium mines. The American National Standards Institute (1973) has published a concensus standard for radiation protection in uranium mines. According to this standard, a monitoring system for radon daughters must be capable of measuring the annual accumulated exposure in working level months within an uncertainty interval of 50% at the 95% confidence level. To satisfy this criterion, uranium mining companies in the USA have adopted a procedure consisting of single or periodic measurements of the air concentration of radon daughters. All of the measurement methods sample a known volume of air through a filter. After a specified delay interval, the filter is analyzed for radioactivity. The exposure rate from total airborne potential alpha energy in units of working level (WL) is estimated from the measured activity on the filter. For control purposes, this measurement establishes whether or not a work area is safe for occupancy by miners. For routine dosimetry, the concentration estimated from the grab sample is assigned to the appropriate work area. It is then assumed that the concentration of radon progeny is equal to the average of the two measurements at the beginning and end of the specified interval. Meanwhile, the work locations and exposure times of each miner are recorded on the daily time card and verified by the shift supervisor. Most cards provide space for 15-minute time intervals. The exposure in working-level hours (WL-hr) for each shift is obtained by summing the time spent in a given location multiplied by the exposure rate (WL) assigned to that location.The exposure of an individual miner to radon progeny is summarized on a weekly basis and commonly reviewed each month. These values are then accumulated in units of working level- months (WLM) during the calendar year. EVALUATION TECHNIQUE AND RESULTS The evaluation of grab sampling methods for monitoring exposure to radon progeny is presented in two sections. The first section examines each method individually according to accuracy, precision, and uncertainties attributed to human errors. The second section includes an analysis of procedures which are common to all measurement methods. The ultimate goal is to determine whether a specific measurement method, or grab sampling in general, can fulfill the criterion that the annual accumulated exposure of each miner be known to within ± 50% at the 95% confidence level. In addition it is essential that the above criterion be satisfied at an acceptable cost to the mining company. The results of each testing procedure are presented in terms of the contribution of the relative uncertainty in the estimates of cumulative WLM. Each of these are then combined to form a figure of merit for the complete monitoring system. The method of combining statistical uncertainties and interpretation of the results is subject to some debate. However, since all of the tested parameters enter into the final computation of WLM multiplicatively, we have used the commonly accepted procedure of combining the squares of the relative uncertainties. We have also assumed that each of the uncertainties is derived from independent random variables and the covariance of any two variables is zero. A description of each grab sampling measuring method is given in Table 1. Also included is the equation used to compute WL from the measured quantities. Accuracy (U A) Our definition of accuracy is based on the uncertainty inherent in any method which attempts to estimate potential alpha energy without unambiguously determining the concentration of the three unknown radioisotopes, RaA, RaB and RaC. (For simplicity, the RaC and RaC' nuclides are referred to in combination as RaC.) The inherent uncertainty strongly depends on the mixture of these three components at the time of measurement. |

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