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Building Capacity for Environmental Monitoring: IAEA Webinars on Gamma Ray Spectrometry


A scientific fellow receives training in the accurate preparation of a soil sample for measurement by gamma ray spectrometry. (Photo: A.Mauring/IAEA)

Analytical laboratories’ capacity to provide reliable and timely analysis of environmental samples following an accidental or intentional release of radioactivity is vital for emergency preparedness and response. To support radioanalytical laboratories and the professionals working in them, the IAEA has recently conducted a series of capacity building events, that attracted over 900 participants from more than 100 countries.

The IAEA has concluded this week a virtual training workshop to sharpen skills of radioanalytical professionals in gamma ray spectrometry, following a series of webinars that kicked off in March. Held for members of the IAEA’s network of Analytical Laboratories for the Measurement of Environmental Radioactivity (ALMERA), the virtual event brought together 250 professionals from 70 countries to enhance their knowledge on performing accurate gamma ray spectrometry in complex measurement scenarios.

“Your work, through gamma ray spectrometry, is crucial in providing reliable and timely analysis of environmental samples following an accidental or intentional release of radioactivity,” said Najat Mokhtar, IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Nuclear Sciences and Applications in her opening remarks. “This is a vital component of emergency preparedness and response.”

Structured in three sessions from March to May, a series of webinars focused on the foundation of gamma ray spectrometry for those new to this field as well as to support practitioners involved in analytical laboratories worldwide on application of theoretical knowledge in practice. The recording of all three webinars that attracted over 700 participants and relevant resources is available here.

“Gamma ray spectrometry as a technique for radiation detection is explained in many textbooks. However, this information can often be quite theoretical, making it challenging for many laboratories to apply them in practice,” said Alexander Mauring, Gamma Spectrometry Specialist at the IAEA Terrestrial Environment Laboratory. “This webinar series presents key aspects of gamma ray spectrometry through practical examples and online exercises that can be applied for measurement of radioactivity levels in various environmental samples.”

The first session discussed the foundations of a measurement technique for identification and quantification of gamma ray emitting radionuclides, usually measured in some kind of environmental sample such as air, water, soil, biota, industrial materials or marine life.

The other two webinars discussed gamma spectrum analysis and activity calculations used for estimating the concentration of radionuclides present in the measured spectrum, as well as the efficiency calibration of High Purity Germanium (HPGe) detectors, the most commonly used equipment for this kind of analysis.

Manfred Groening, Head of the IAEA Terrestrial Environment Laboratory, emphasized that accurate and reliable measurements were essential in decision making related to risk management and mitigation measures following a radioactive release. “Through this webinar series, we had an opportunity to improve participants’ understanding of gamma ray spectrometry as one of the major measurement techniques for determining presence and concentrations of different radionuclides in the environment, effectively helping them to enhance their capability of producing accurate results from raw measurement data.”

The webinar series was offered within the IAEA ALMERA Network but was made open for public participation due to high interest by a wide range of professionals. ALMERA unites over 194 laboratories from 90 countries to facilitate their technical competence through providing proficiency tests, interlaboratory comparison exercises for quality control and to enhance their competence in environmental radioactivity measurement in emergency situations.

Gamma ray spectrometry is crucial in providing reliable and timely analysis of environmental samples following an accidental or intentional release of radioactivity.
Najat Mokhtar, IAEA Deputy Director General

An environmental sample is placed on a HPGe detector, where it will be measured and analysed for its radionuclide content. (Photo: A.Mauring/IAEA)

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