Uncertainties in 4-pi-beta-gamma coincidence counting
Ryan P. Fitzgerald, Claude Bailat, Christophe Bobin, John Keightley
The 4-pi-beta-gamma coincidence counting method and its close relatives are widely used for the primary standardization of radioactivity. Both the general formalism and specific implementation of these methods have been well-documented. In particular, the reader is directed to previous review articles in this journal. That canon details the extrapolation equations used for various decay schemes, methods for determining model parameters and, in some cases, tabulated uncertainty budgets. What are sometimes lacking from experimental reports are both the rationale for estimating uncertainties in a specific way and the details of exactly how a specific component of uncertainty was estimated. Furthermore, correlations among the components of uncertainty are rarely mentioned. To fill in these gaps, the present article shares the best-practices from a few practitioners of this craft. We address the problem from both the holistic and reductionist perspective and demonstrate with examples how these approaches can be used to estimate the uncertainty of the reported massic activity. We describe uncertainties due to measurement variability, extrapolation functions, dead-time and resolving-time effects, gravimetric links, and nuclear and atomic data. Most importantly, a thorough understanding of the measurement system and its response to the decay under study can be used to derive a robust estimate of the measurement uncertainty.