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„It is wrong to think that the task of physics is to find out how nature is. Physics concerns what we can say about nature.“ (Niels Bohr: „Atomic Theory and the Description of Nature“, 1931)

Radionuclide laboratory

IAF is a leading provider of radionuclide analyses and radiochemical services in the fields of alpha and gamma spectrometry, liquid scintillation methods, gross alpha/beta and surface contamination measurements, and a wide range of radiochemical methods. A number of standard methods has been further improved and perfected by us so that we can guarantee highest quality and reliability with efficiency and a short sample turnaround time. We operate a strict chain of custody for all samples and maintain a trustful cooperation each individual client.

The laboratory of IAF is accredited according to DIN EN ISO 17025:2005 by DAkkS, the German national accreditation body (accreditation certificate D-PL-11201-01-00). Our accreditation is flexible, i.e., we are allowed to incorporate new testing and analytical methods developed by us into the scope of our accreditation.

IAF has fully implemented all requirements of ISO 11929:2010 (Determination of the characteristic limits (decision threshold, detection limit and limits of the confidence interval) for measurements of ionizing radiation). The requisite information is shown on our test reports. A sample of a test report can be downloaded here.

The range of competencies and services of our laboratory includes the following:

Our radionuclide laboratory is licensed to handle open sources of up to 100 times the exemption level as defined by the German Radiation Protection Ordinance. This gives us great flexibility in sample transport, handling and analysis. By using laboratory space of a partner organisation with the appropriate license, we can increase the activity of the samples that we can process up to 10^7 times the exemption level. In the new facilities the samples can be aliquoted and/or radiochemically prepared. Further processing as well as measurement and evaluation of the samples are carried out as before in the laboratory of IAF at Radeberg.

Natural and artificial radionuclides in solids, liquids and gases

As accredited laboratory we analyse, inter alia, the following:

  • Building materials
  • Soils and sediments
  • Dust, aerosols, aerosol filters, filter residues
  • Radioactive residues (NORM) and radioactive waste
  • Groundwater, rainwater, surface water
  • Drinking and mineral water, beverages
  • Production waters of all industries
  • Highly saline water
  • Agricultural, plant and animal products
  • Foodstuffs
  • Cosmetics
  • Vegetable oil
  • Oil, oily liquids
  • Excrements (stool, urine, including incineration for incorporation monitoring), blood samples
  • Samples from environmental monitoring of nuclear facilities
  • Samples from decommissioning of nuclear installations

The range of radionuclides that can be analysed include, but are not limited to, the following:

Natural radionuclides Artificial radionuclides
U-238 Cs-137
U-234 H-3 (Tritium)
Th-230 C-14
Ra-226 Fe-55
Rn-222 (in water) Co-60
Pb-210 Ni-63
Po-210 I-131
Th-232 I-129
Ra-228 Sr-89,90
Th-228 Am-241
U-235 Pu-238,239,240,241
Ac-227 Eu-152,154,155
Pa-231 Np-237
K-40 Cm-242,243,244
H-3 (Tritium)

The table above contains only radionuclides that are most frequently analysed. There are many others that can also be determined. A map of all known nuclides can be seen here.

Nuclide Chart from

Decay data of all radionuclides such as radiation types, energies and emission can be accessed through this link.

radionuclide decay data

Limits of determination, detection limits, tolerances, and the required sample volume/mass and sampling procedures depend on many factors. Please call or email us with your specific questions, we will get back to you immediatly to discuss solutions.

Radioactivity in drinking water and foodstuffs

  • Analysis of drinking water samples according to the German Drinking Water Ordinance (as amended in 2015 with respect to radioactive parameters) and determination of the Indicative Dose
  • Determination of gross alpha/beta activity concentration as well as the complete nuclide vector in water and food samples
  • Analysis of mineral water samples for Ra-226 and Ra-228 for the certificate “Suitable for baby food”
  • Determination of Rn-222 activity concentrations in water samples

We have substantially contributed to the “Guidance for analysis and assessment of radioactivity in drinking water” (in German only).

Further information is available from the website of BfS – German Office for Radiation Protection (in English) or the German Gas and Water Association (in German only).

Radioactivity in building materials

  • Radiometric assessment of the specific activity (Bq/g, Bq/kg) of natural and artificial radionuclides in building materials
  • Determination of the activity index for Ra-226, Th-232 and K-40 according to Annex VIII of the EU Basic Safety Standards 2013/59/Euratom as well as Chapter 3 (Protection against radioactivity in building materials) of the Radiation Protection Act
  • Determination of the radon exhalation rate and the radon tightness of building materials
  • Assessment of building materials and remediation plans to reduce the indoor radon concentration in buildings in order to comply with Art. 74 of the EU Basic Safety Standards 2013/59/Euratom and Chapter 2 (Protection against Radon) of the Radiation Protection Act

Decommissioning of nuclear installations

IAF is a leading provider of radioanalytical services for the decommissioning of nuclear installations such as:

  • Nuclear medicine facilities
  • Research facilities and laboratories dealing with radioactive materials
  • Nuclear power plants
  • Mining and processing facilities for uranium and thorium.

Typical applications include the following:

  • Surface contamination (scratch and wipe samples) and analyis for typical nuclides including but not limited to H-3, Am-241, Cm-242 – Cm-244, Np-237, Pu-238 – Pu-241
  • Volume contaminationg., in concrete (including depth profile to determine penetration of radionuclides into concrete)
  • Various liquids, oil, acids, aqueous solutions
  • Determination of nuclides in exhaust air of molecular sieves (e.g., H-3, P-14, Kr-85 etc.).

We support our clients with the planning and implementation and  monitoring of sampling programs (see also Sampling, Field Work).

Radiochemistry and nuclide analysis in high-salinity solutions

The determination of radiological parameters in aqueous solutions of high salinity, such as in

  • Circulation fluids of geothermal plants
  • Produced waters of oil and gas production
  • Radioactively contaminated water from salt mines and caverns (especially when used as respository for radioactive wastes)

is a radiochemical challenge requiring special experience. For many years IAF has been a leading laboratory in this area.

IAF has accumulated substantial experience in problem-specific sample preparation, in particular the elimination of the spurious effect on beta results caused by K-40.

Please email or call us to discuss your specific needs.

Isotope methods for hydrogeological investigations, age determination and forensic questions

Isotope methods are applied to a wide range of scientific, technical and forensic questions, including but not limited to the following:

  • Investigation of hydrogeological genesis
  • H-3 analyses for the determination of the age of ground and drinking water resources (limit of detection up to 0.2 TU)
  • Determination of the origin of products
  • Forensic analytics to identify the origin of contamination sources and plumes.

Important isotopes include C-14 and H-3 (tritium), but also many others depending on the specific problem.

For example, using typical isotope ratios in water and fodder of goats, IAF has helped producers of goat cheese with protected designation of origin to defend their brands by identifying fake products on the market.

IAF has many years of experience in measuring isotopes in low and highly saline solutions, and we operate state-of-the-art equipment such as Quantulus, TriCarb etc.

Please email or call us to discuss your specific needs regarding sampling, analytical methods, interpretation of results etc.

Radiochemistry and sample preparation

An impeccable sample preparation and radiochemical separation is key to correct radionuclide analyses. The nuclide in question must be separated from a spurious matrix and from interfering radionuclides and concentrated in a measurable sample. The chemical separation yields are usually determined by internal standards (e.g., radio-tracers or the same or chemically similar isotopes).

IAF possesses the requisite infrastructure and equipment for sample preparation and has more than 2 decades of experience in radiochemical separation techniques. Our equipment includes the following:

  • Incinerators and drying cabinets
  • Comminution equipment (jaw crushers, ball mills etc.)
  • Chemical and melting digestion equipment
  • Separation systems such as centrifuges
  • Absorption and desorption systeme for gaseous analytics.

For radiochemical separation we use the following techniques:

  • Evaporation and co-precipitation to concentrate and separate the relevant radionuclides
  • Elektrolytic conzentrators for the determination of tritium in water (for detection limits of 0.2 bis 0.5 TU)
  • Sample combustion (oxidiser) for the separation of C-14 and H-3 prior to LSC
  • Solid phase extraction and ion exchange (IX) separation prior to alpha spectrometric determination of uranium, plutonium etc. or for the selective separation of beta emitters (e.g., determination of Sr-90 by low level beta counting)
  • Elektrochemical separation (e.g., elektrolysis) and micro-precipitation for the production of measurable samples.

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