Analytical Instrumentation

Dirty Bombs and Liability Exposure in the Petroleum Industry

Jul 15 2010

Author: Ray R. Fleming and Robert C. Tisdale on behalf of Unassigned Independent Article

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Globally, the petroleum industry continues to employ tens of thousands of radioisotopes in activities that range from exploration and production to distribution. The presence of these radioisotope sources, in such vast numbers, represents a statisticallysignificant opportunity for theft and subsequent misuse. Governments worldwide now regard radiological terrorism, through the use of radiological dispersive devices (RDD) - often called “dirty bombs,” to be far more likely than use of a nuclear explosive device. In the context of the recent Deepwater Horizon Incident in the Gulf of Mexico, it is incumbent on the petroleum industry to evaluate liability exposure relative to its radioisotope inventory. Whether protecting the customer base or corporate shareholders, technology now exists to largely mitigate the risk associated with previous generation isotope-based technologies.1

Radioisotope Threat
Whether for radiography, gauging or compositional analysis, a variety of radioisotopes (see Table 1) have been routinely employed in the petroleum arena for many decades. For example, americium-241\\\\beryllium (241Am\\\\Be), cesium-137 (137Cs) and californium-252 (252Cf) have all been employed for well logging of oil and gas wells, with respective half-lives (t½) of 432, 30 and 2.6 years. Radiography devices for x-raying welds on pipelines and petrochemical plants use iridium-192 (192Ir), and cobalt-60 (60Co), with half-lives of 74 days and 5.3 years respectively. Level and density gauges are used throughout petrochemical plants typically employ 60Co, 241Am or 137Cs. Moisture/density devices used in construction contain smaller 241Am/Be neutron sources and/or 137Cs sources. Analytical instrumentation, used for mea surements such as positive material identification, may also contain 241Am, or some other less common or less hazardous isotopes.

 

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