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RML Facilities

RML has advanced capabilities to undertake sampling in the marine environment, to prepare and to measure the relevant radioisotopes in the laboratories.

Underground Laboratory

Overall view of the Underground Laboratory.

The use of underground laboratories for low-level gamma-ray spectrometry of environmental radionuclides is, together with the availability of highly sensitive detectors, an important breakthrough in low-level counting. Why are underground laboratories needed for environmental radionuclide analysis? There are several reasons: (i) Highly accurate and precise data on natural and anthropogenic radionuclides, often used as tracers in the marine and terrestrial environments, are required for environmental and climate change studies; (ii) Forty years after the main introduction of anthropogenic radionuclides into the environment as a result of large-scale atmospheric nuclear weapons tests (global fallout), their concentrations in the environment have decreased considerably. (iii) Production of high quality reference materials relies on improved characterisation of these materials, which in turn requires highly sensitive and stable counting facilities.

137Cs in deep waters of the South Atlantic Ocean.

Very low levels of radioactivity can be detected in the CAVE due to the availability of large volume detectors, built with special low-background materials, placed underground to decrease the cosmic-ray component of their background. The background is further reduced by using active shielding, involving arrays of detectors and sophisticated electronic set-up, besides the massive ultra-low-level lead shields. These capabilities have opened doors for investigations which previously were not possible.

Construction details of detectors in passive (lead) and active shielding.