Modeling background radiation in Southern Nevada

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Journal of Environmental Radioactivity



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Aerial gamma ray surveys are an important tool for national security, scientific, and industrial interests in determining locations of both anthropogenic and natural sources of radioactivity. There is a relationship between radioactivity and geology and in the past this relationship has been used to predict geology from an aerial survey. The purpose of this project is to develop a method to predict the radiologic exposure rate of the geologic materials by creating a high resolution background model. The intention is for this method to be used in an emergency response scenario where the background radiation environment is unknown. Two study areas in Southern Nevada have been modeled using geologic data, images from the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER), geochemical data, and pre-existing low resolution aerial surveys from the National Uranium Resource Evaluation (NURE) Survey. Using these data, geospatial areas that are homogenous in terms of K, U, and Th, referred to as background radiation units, are defined and the gamma ray exposure rate is predicted. The prediction is compared to data collected via detailed aerial survey by the Department of Energy's Remote Sensing Lab - Nellis, allowing for the refinement of the technique. By using geologic units to define radiation background units of exposed bedrock and ASTER visualizations to subdivide and define radiation background units within alluvium, successful models have been produced for Government Wash, north of Lake Mead, and for the western shore of Lake Mohave, east of Searchlight, NV. © 2017 The Authors



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