Development of a neural network approach to characterise 226Ra contamination at legacy sites using gamma-ray spectra taken from boreholes



Varley A, Tyler A, Smith L & Dale P (2015) Development of a neural network approach to characterise 226Ra contamination at legacy sites using gamma-ray spectra taken from boreholes. Journal of Environmental Radioactivity, 140, pp. 130-140.

There are a large number of sites across the UK and the rest of the world that are known to be contaminated with 226Ra owing to historical industrial and military activities. At some sites, where there is a realistic risk of contact with the general public there is a demand for proficient risk assessments to be undertaken. One of the governing factors that influence such assessments is the geometric nature of contamination particularly if hazardous high activity point sources are present. Often this type of radioactive particle is encountered at depths beyond the capabilities of surface gamma-ray techniques and so intrusive borehole methods provide a more suitable approach. However, reliable spectral processing methods to investigate the properties of the waste for this type of measurement have yet to be developed since a number of issues must first be confronted including: representative calibration spectra, variations in background activity and counting uncertainty. Here a novel method is proposed to tackle this issue based upon the interrogation of characteristic Monte Carlo calibration spectra using a combination of Principal Component Analysis and Artificial Neural Networks. The technique demonstrated that it could reliably distinguish spectra that contained contributions from point sources from those of background or dissociated contamination (homogenously distributed). The potential of the method was demonstrated by interpretation of borehole spectra collected at the Dalgety Bay headland, Fife, Scotland. Predictions concurred with intrusive surveys despite the realisation of relatively large uncertainties on activity and depth estimates. To reduce this uncertainty, a larger background sample and better spatial coverage of cores were required, alongside a higher volume better resolution detector.

borehole gammaspectroscopy; radium contamination; Monte Carlo; neural networks;

Journal of Environmental Radioactivity: Volume 140

FundersNatural Environment Research Council and Scottish Environmental Protection Agency
Publication date28/02/2015
Publication date online29/11/2014
Date accepted by journal13/11/2014
PublisherElsevier BV

People (3)


Professor Leslie Smith

Professor Leslie Smith

Emeritus Professor, Computing Science

Professor Andrew Tyler

Professor Andrew Tyler

Scotland Hydro Nation Chair, Biological and Environmental Sciences

Dr Adam Varley

Dr Adam Varley

Data Scientist, Biological and Environmental Sciences