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Introduction

Radioactive decay is the process by which unstable

atoms transform themselves into new chemical
elements

Activity

SI unit is the becquerel (Bq)

1 Bq = 1 disintegration per second

Multiples & Prefixes (Activity)

Multiple
1
1 x 106
1 x 109
1 x 1012
1 x 1015

Prefix
------Mega (M)
Giga (G)
Tera (T)
Peta (P)

Abbreviation
Bq
MBq
GBq
TBq
PBq

Units
Curie (Ci) = 3.7 x 1010 dps
Becquerel (Bq) = 1 dps (SI)
1 Ci = 3.7 x 1010 Bq

Decay Constant

The Decay Constant is denoted by

NOTE: Units on are

Typically

1
sec

1
time

or sec-1 or per second

Activity

A = N
where A = activity has units of
disintegrations per second
(dps or Bq)

Half-Life and Decay Constant

The half-life is the time required for an amount of any
radionuclide to decay to one-half of its initial value.

The relationship between half-life and decay constant

is:

0.693
T =

Half-Life

The amount of activity decayed away after
n half-lives is given by
A
1-

Ao
A

Ao

activity that still exists at time t

Half-Life
Phosphorus-32
Iridium-192
Cobalt-60
Caesium-137
Carbon-14
Uranium-238

Half-Life
14.3 days
74 days
5.25 years
30 years
5760 years
4.5 x 109 years

Exercise 1
A criticality accident occurs in a Uranium processing facility.

Given that the fission

yield for 131I is 0.03 and its half-life is 8 days, calculate the 131I
activity at the end of the accident. Neglect 131I decay during the
accident.
1
0.693
Activity = N =
x
8 days
86,400 sec day-1

x ( 1019 x 0.03) = 3 x 1011 Bq

3 x 1011 Bq
3.7 x 1010 Bq/Ci

131I

= 8.1 Ci 131I

dN = -N(t)
dt

Integrated

N(t) = No e -t
Expressing the equation in terms of activity:

N(t) = No e-t
or

A(t) = Ao e- t

where A(t) = activity at any time t

and Ao = the initial activity at time t = 0

Mean Life and Half-Life

A
= e - t
Ao
However, when t = T, the activity decreases to of the
original value:
or

A = Ao e - t

A
Ao

=e

Ao
Ao

- T

Take the natural logarithm of both sides

ln () = ln (e ) - T

ln () = -T

Mean Life and Half-Life

Regrouping terms yields

-T
1
=

ln ()
-T
1
=
=

- ln (2)

Mean Life
T

1
=

ln (2)

1
=

T
0.693

but ln(2) = 0.693

= 1.44 T = Tm

T
ln (2)

Exercise 2
A radionuclide has a half life of 10 days. What is the
mean life?
Mean Life = 1.44 T1/2
= 1.44 x 10 days
= 14.4 days

The specific activity of a radioactive source is defined as the

activity per unit mass of the radioisotope sample.
Activity can be calculated from

M = molecular weight of sample

Av= Avogadro's number(= 6.02 x 1023 nuclei/mole)

= r =ioisotope decay constant ( = ln 2 /half-life)

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Exercise 3
Calculate the specific activity of pure tritium (3H) with a halflife of 12.26 years.

Substitute T1/2 =12.26 years and M=3 grams/mole to get the

specific activity in disintegrations/(gramyear).

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ENERGY

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ENERGY
It defined as the kinetic energy gained by an electron
which its acceleration through a potential difference
of 1 volt.
The unit for energy is the electron volt or eV
The electron volt is a convenient unit because the
energy gained from an electric field can be easily
obtained by multiplying the potential difference by
the number of electronic charges carried by the
particle.
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For example, an alpha particle that carries an

electronic charge of +2 will gain an energy of 2 ke V
when accelerated by a potential difference of 1000
volts.

SI unit of energy
1eV=1.602 x 10-19 J
1fJ(=10-15 J) = 6.241 x 103 eV

femtojoule (fJ)
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The energy of an X-or gamma-ray photon is related to

the radiation frequency by
where h = Planck's constant
(6.626 x 10-34 J s, or 4.135 x 10-15 eV s)
v = frequency

where is in meters and E is in e V.

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Exercise 4
What is the lowest wavelength limit of the X-rays emitted by a
tube operating at a potential of 195 kV?
Since an x-ray must essentially be created by the de-excitation
of a single electron, the maximum energy of an x-ray emitted in
a tube operating at a potential of 195 kV must be 195 keV.

E=hv

E=hc/

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RADIATION UNITS AND DOSE

QUANTITIES

IAEA Post Graduate Educational Course Radiation Protection and Safe Use of Radiation Sources

Exposure : X
Exposure is a dosimetric quantity for ionizing
electromagnetic radiation, based on the ability
of the radiation to produce ionization in air.
This quantity is only defined for
electromagnetic
producing
interactions in air.

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Exposure : X
Exposure is the absolute value of the total charge
of the ions of one sign produced in air when all
the electrons liberated by photons per unit mass
of air are completely stopped in air.
X = dQ/dm

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Exposure : X
The SI unit of exposure is Coulomb per kilogram
[Ckg-1]
The former special unit of exposure was
Roentgen [R]
1 R = 2.58 x 10-4 Ckg-1
1 Ckg-1 = 3876 R

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Exposure rate: X/t

Exposure rate (and later, dose rate) is the exposure

produced per unit of time.

The SI unit of exposure rate is the [C/kg] per second

or (in old units) [R/s].

In radiation protection it is common to indicate these

rate values per hour (e.g. R/h).

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Absorbed dose, D
The absorbed dose D, is the energy absorbed per unit
mass.
This quantity is defined for all ionizing radiation (not
only for electromagnetic radiation, as in the case of
the exposure), and for any material.
D = dE/dm. The SI unit of D is the Gray [Gy].
1 Gy = J/kg.

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It is possible to calculate the absorbed dose in a

material if the exposure is known
D [Gy]. = f . X [Ckg-1]
f = conversion coefficient depending on medium

The absorbed energy in 1 gram of air exposed

to 1 [Ckg-1] of X-rays is 0.869 [Gy]
f(air) = 0.869

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Example of conversion coefficient: f

f values ([Gy] / [Ckg-1])
Photon
energy
10 keV

Water

Bone

Muscle

0.91

3.5

0.93

100 keV

0.95

1.5

0.95

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The mean absorbed dose in a tissue or

organ DT is the energy deposited in the
organ divided by the mass of that organ.

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Equivalent dose: H
The equivalent dose H is the absorbed dose
multiplied by a dimensionless radiation weighting
factor, wR which expresses the biological
effectiveness of a given type of radiation
To avoid confusion with the absorbed dose, the SI
unit of equivalent dose is called the Sievert (Sv). The
old unit was the rem

1 Sv = 100 rem
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Radiation weighting factor, wR

For most of the radiation used in medicine
(X-rays, , e-) wR is = 1, so the absorbed
dose and the equivalent dose are
numerically equal
The exceptions are:
alpha particles (wR = 20)
neutrons (wR = 5 - 20).
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To

reflect the combined detriment from

stochastic effects due to the equivalent doses in
all the organs and tissues of the body, the
equivalent dose in each organ and tissue is
multiplied by a tissue weighting factor, wT,
and the results are summed over the whole
body to give the effective dose E

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Tissue weighting factors, wT

ORGAN /
TISSUE

WT

ORGAN /
TISSUE

WT

Bone marrow

0.12

Lung

0.12

0.05

Oesophagus

0.05

Bone surface

0.01

Skin

0.01

Breast

0.05

Stomach

0.12

Colon

0.12

Thyroid

0.05

0.20

Remainder

0.05

Liver

0.05

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Effective dose, E

E = T wT.HT
E : effective dose
wT : weighting factor for organ or tissue T
HT : equivalent dose in organ or tissue T

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Non-SI Units
Quantity

Old Unit

SI Unit

Conversion

Activity

curie (Ci)

becquerel (Bq)

1 Ci=3.7 x 1010Bq

Absorbed
Dose

gray (Gy)

1 rad = 0.01 Gy

Equivalent
Dose

rem

sievert (Sv)

1 rem = 0.01 Sv

In a mixed radiation environment, a person receives 20 mGy of

-ray dose and 2 mGy of slow neutron dose.
Calculate the total equivalent dose received by the person.

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