Radiation Protection Glossary

A radiation protection glossary for Radiation Protection Supervisors (RPS), Radiation Protection Advisers (RPA) and anyone else interesting in radiation safety terms and definitions. The glossary is a mixture of health physics , phrases related to radiation protection legislation, transport, practical safety, technical terms and similar.

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AmBe Americium-Beryllium neutron source

An AmBe (Americium-Beryllium) source is a special type of industrial neutron source. It is made in the form of a capsule which contains a finely blended powder of radioactive Am-241 (Americium) and Beryllium (Be). The AmBe source works on the interaction of the alpha particles from the Am-241 with Beryllium:

\[\alpha+Be^{9}\rightarrow C^{12}+n\]
The neutrons formed are emitted in the energy range of 0.1 - 11 MeV, with an average energy of 4.2 MeV.

Typical neutron output can be specified as 2.2 x 106neutrons/s per 37 GBq (1 Ci). The half-life of the source is 432 years (i.e. based on Am-241); the source usually has a recommended working life of 15 years.

Typical dose rates will be in the order of 0.7 micro Sv/hr at 1 m per GBq (gamma) and 0.6-0.7 micro Sv/hr at 1 m per GBq (neutron). Knowing the neutron and gamma dose rates per known activity is useful when determining the transport index (TI) - this is required when transporting the packaged source around.

Typical applications include:

  • Well logging
  • Industrial gauges
  • Porosity / moisture measurements
  • Prompt Gamma Neutron Activation Analysis (PGNAA) - security applications

Typical source activities available range from around 37 MBq-740 GBq (1 mCi to 20 Ci). Note that where the Am-214 activity exceeds 60 GBq then the source becomes a High Activity Sealed Source (HASS). More Ionactive resource on HASS sources can be found here: 5. High Activity Sealed Sources (HASS).

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