Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Radiation testing, easy and inexpensive with the GS-1100A

Radiation testing has become a popular hobby in Japan, and for good reason.  The people of Japan are not sure who to trust when it comes to information about radiation.  There have been too many miss spoken numbers, too many retractions, and not enough transparency from TEPCO and the government.  Concerned citizens are taking matters into their own hands.  Companies like Ludlum, Johnson, and Victoreen are raking in the profits by gouging the market and selling their products for twice or even three times the cost in the USA and abroad.  The people want to test radiation for themselves, but the cost is a major concern. 

There is a new term in Japanese; "Radiation Divorce." This is the term for couples that get divorced when one of the two takes radiation concern too seriously and the other takes it too lightly, causing a rift in the relationship that ultimately leads to divorce.  I myself came close to being an example of this term. 

My wife and I recently spent 200,000 yen to purchase radiation equipment so that we could take testing into our own hands.  The products were Ludlum Products and they were used.  The problem was the difficulty in using the equipment.  I could see there was higher radiation in some areas than others, I could see that the paint on my walls was higher in radiation than just the normal background radiation, but I could not know what that meant for us.  There was a way to test for specific nuclides like Cesium 137, but I would have to calibrate the unit to detect it, and that required that I had a pure source of Cesium to measure and calibrate the unit on.  The entire process was too difficult.

My wife and I became very troubled that what we thought would be a simple thing was actually very complicated.  We returned the equipment for a refund. The company we purchased from is CHP Consultants.  They were simply fantastic in helping us get our equipment, and furthered their exceptional service by accepting the equipment back for a full refund.

Now that the first attempt has been abandoned, I have been left to decide how to proceed.  I need what so many other people need; radiation detection equipment that is inexpensive, portable, available and easy to use.  I have found part of what is needed. Thanks to David and his Tokyo Kids & Radiation work. 

In order to test radiation and know what you are looking at, you need to have what is called a Multi Channel Analyzer. Otherwise, you can only know radiation exists, not what kind or what element it originates from.  The best, least expensive unit you can find is the Gamma Spectacular GS-1100A. This unit sells for only $249.--! It connects to your PC or to your laptop if you want a portable solution.  The price is great! So what is the catch?  The catch is, this unit does not work without a Scintillation detector.  And the scintillation detectors can run you up thousands of dollars. Especially if you buy from the three big vendors listed above.  Also, there are many types of scintillation probes with different sensitivity ratings. 

What is the best Radiation Scintillation probe to have? As many people and experts I have spoken to, the best detection is Germanium, but that is far too expensive and the cost is liquid. Literally, Germanium detectors require liquid nitrogen for cooling. They are a semiconducting radiation detector. For more information, check out Ortec's description. Short of this, the next best thing is Sodium Iodide (NaI) crystal Scintillation. 

These NaI scintillation probes come in various sizes.  The most common sizes are 1 inch, 2 inch and 3 inch. but they can be sizes in between as well.  What is the best one to get?  Well, as the size increases, so does the price; by a lot!  A good NaI scintillation probe could run you $400 USD to $5k USD, depending on where and who you buy it from and what size. The most commonly used and accurate for the price size is a 2x2 (2-inch) NaI scintillation probe.  So now that you know, don't you just want to go out and buy one?  Well, good luck!  They are on back order for months.  You can buy one now, if you are willing to pay the two to three times market value that companies like Ludlum are charging.  If you want a decently priced one, better put your name on the waiting list now.

So you got your scintillation prove for your gs-1100a, you're in business right? I have to say, be careful.  Like my wife and I, we purchased a scintillation probe with just that thought in mind.  The truth is, not any NaI scintillation probe will work.  The GS-1100A only goes up to 1100volts.  The scintillation probe we purchased was rated at 1350 volts.  We didn't know, because the calibration was done before it shipped to us, and we didn't think to ask them to make sure to send us a unit rated for less than 1100 volts.  Oops!  There is hope!  Gamma Spectacular also makes a GS-2000A.  This unit can go up to 2000 volts, but only in 100 volt increments.  That excluded our 1350HV scintillation probe.  We could use it at 1300 volts or 1400 volts, but the efficiency would not have been as good.  We would have a great, inexpensive, easy to use radiation detection package that wasn't as accurate as the price we were paying.

A solution in the making for radiation testing in Japan is coming!  I know how difficult it is to find the radiation detection equipment, pay for it, ship it into the USA and learn to use it.  I have been here and I have felt the severe pangs of failure. I am devising the solution to the radiation testing cost, and learning curve. 

The NIRNSA package.  Working with CHP Consultants, we are building a 2x2 scintillation probe rated for 1100HV or less with high efficiency and, most specifically, a low cost. Working with CHP Consultants to get these scintillation probes specifically made for this unit in bulk, will allow me to ship them to Japan, package them with the GS-1100a, cables, free software and plenty of information on how to use it all for a much better price that what is currently available.  I and my colleagues will also be traveling Japan to give free testing with the equipment and information on how to use it and where to buy it.

Stay tuned for the launch date.

Easy, inexpensive radiation testing is coming; for the hobbyist, concerned citizens, parents of at risk children, and various home labs sprouting up all over Japan.  Whatever your reason for doing it, thank you for doing it.  I hope to make it easier for you soon.

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