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Detection and Quantification Capabilities for 85Kr with the NIST Low-Level Gas Counting System: Impacts of Instrumental and Environmental Backgrounds



Lloyd A. Currie, George A. Klouda


Among the most important, conservative geochemical tracers are the long-lived isotopes of krypton, 81Kr and 85Kr. Following a very brief review of the metrology and applications of these two radionuclides, we focus on the low-level measurement the 10.8 year fission product 85Kr, in connection with its use for studying atmospheric transport and short term (decadal) atmosphere-ocean exchange and mixing. A special challenge for the study of 85Kr in the environment is to reduce detection/quantification limits to mBq levels, to minimize the need to take costly (large) atmospheric and marine samples for geochemical studies, where current radioactivity concentrations (northern, mid-latitudes) are about 1.4 Bq m-3 (troposphere) and 0.08 Bq 1000 kg-1 (surface ocean water). A second challenge is to design a measurement protocol that takes into account not only the effect of instrumental background on detection/quantification limits, but also the effects of environmental background levels and their variability. Tests of these capabilities were performed theoretically, based on performance characteristics of the NIST low-level gas counting system, and experimentally, using quantitative dilutions of a 85Kr reference sample and a contemporary atmospheric sample. Recent enhancements to the NIST system, including a high purity 5 cc quartz counter and an active (NaI) shield, have resulted in a background reduction by more than an order of magnitude to 0.02 cpm and the ability to quantify ambient 85Kr in 1.5 L air or 25 L seawater with 2000 min paired sample-background counting periods.
Journal of Radioanalytical and Nuclear Chemistry
No. 1


atmospheric transport and circulation, conservative radionuclide tracers, detection/quantification limits, environmental <sup>85</sup>Kr, environmental backgrounds, instrumental backgrounds, low-level gas counting, marine transport and circulation


Currie, L. and Klouda, G. (2001), Detection and Quantification Capabilities for <sup>85</sup>Kr with the NIST Low-Level Gas Counting System: Impacts of Instrumental and Environmental Backgrounds, Journal of Radioanalytical and Nuclear Chemistry (Accessed September 26, 2023)
Created April 1, 2001, Updated February 19, 2017