Novel approaches to the analysis of nuclear and other radioactive materials - Improving detection capability through alpha-gamma coincidence, alpha-induced optical fluorescence and advanced spectrum analysis

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles


  • Sakari Ihantola

Research units


Nuclear and other radioactive materials pose a special concern in the proliferation of nuclear weapons, reactor accidents or through criminal acts. To prevent the adverse effects of the use of these materials, novel approaches for their detection and analysis are required. The objective of the research in this thesis was to improve the detection and characterisation of nuclear and other radioactive materials with radiometric methods. Radioactive sources can be detected and identified based on their radiation, such as alpha particles or gamma rays, emitted in the decay of unstable atoms. In practice, background radiation and attenuation impair the minimum detectable activity. In this thesis, the simultaneous detection of both gamma rays and alpha particles originating from the same decay was shown to increase the detection sensitivity of certain radionuclides compared to the equivalent separate measurements. Unfortunately, the measurement geometry in this direct alphagamma coincidence approach can be limited by the short range of alpha particles in air. This deficiency was overcome for the first time by the use of coincidences between gamma rays and secondary optical photons. The secondary optical photons are produced during the flight of alpha particles in air. In addition to the measurement techniques, statistical uncertainties were investigated both in spectrum fitting and in the interpretation of the results. The techniques were applied to the analysis of gamma-ray and alpha-particle spectra. Emphasis was placed on the correlated variables and analysis of data with limited statistics. The techniques presented improve the analysis of radioactive materials in several applications. The alpha-gamma coincidence technique is especially suited to the analysis of plutonium samples, which is important for nuclear safeguards. Nuclear decommissioning and crime scene investigation would greatly benefit from the capability to detect alpha-particle emitters at a stand-off distance. The reliability of the analysis algorithms is particularly crucial in portal monitors and other applications where weak signals from a large number of spectra are automatically inquired without expert support.


Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
Print ISBNs978-952-60-5460-5
Electronic ISBNs978-952-60-5461-2
Publication statusPublished - 2013
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)

    Research areas

  • gamma-ray spectrometry, alpha-ray spectrometry, covariance analysis, coincidence measurement, remote alpha-particle detection, UV-fluorescence

ID: 20667691