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Health Phys. 2007 Aug;93(2 Suppl):S119-23.

A historically significant shield for in vivo measurements.

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  • 1Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, PO Box 999, Richland, WA 99352, USA.


Due to the ubiquitous nature of ionizing radiation, in vivo measurement systems designed to measure low levels of radionuclides in people are usually enclosed within a high-density shield. Lead, steel, earth, and water are just some of the materials that have been and are being used to shield the detectors from radiations of cosmic, atmospheric, man-made, and terrestrial origin. At many Department of Energy sites, the counting room shields are constructed of pre-World War II steel to reduce the background levels in order to perform measurements that have low minimum detectable activities. The pre-World War II steel is commonly called low background steel in the in vivo industry vernacular. The low background descriptor comes from the fact the steel was manufactured prior to the beginning of atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons in the 1940's. Consequently, the steel is not likely to be contaminated with fission or activation products from fallout. For high energy photons (600 keV < E < 1500 keV), 30 cm of steel shielding significantly reduces the measured background radiation levels. This is the story of the unique steel that began as the hull of the U.S.S. Indiana and now forms a shielded room at the In Vivo Radiobioassay and Research Facility in Richland, Washington.

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