Common industrial uses
of sealed radioactive sources
Industrial uses of sealed radioactive sources account for a significant
number of accidents reported to the IAEA. Industrial sources are used
in a wide variety of applications and often in mobile equipment.
One of the most common industrial uses of radioactive sources is in gamma
radiography, used in non-destructive testing of welds, such as those in
gas and water pipelines. In gamma radiography, the source is housed in
a shielded device and will be
moved through a guide tube to a collimator inside the pipe. Controlled
beams of radiation are emitted from the source (usually iridium-192) through
the weld and onto photographic film. The resulting radiograph will show
any flaws in the weld.
Sealed radioactive sources are also used in a variety of portable gauges.
Nuclear gauges can be used to measure density, thickness, or moisture,
or to identify materials, all based on how the radiation emitted from
the source interacts with the material under study. They all use a source
in a shielded container to emit radiation that is then measured by at
least one detector. Such gauges are commonly used in measuring the uniformity
in road construction and in well logging. Well logging involves characterizing
the properties of underground formations, such as potential oil or water
wells, according to their reaction to the radiation emitted by the logging
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radiography source. This type was used in the USA during the
1930s and 1940s to inspect welds and metal casting.
industrial radiography sources, used to radiograph thick
metal and to penetrate confined areas.
A small metal capsule at one end
of a flexible cable houses
(30–100 Curies) of iridium-192 or
Photo Credits and Copyright 1999: Oak Ridge Associated Universities