Monte Carlo modeling of scintillation detectors for continuous underground radon monitoring

Gustavo Haquin, Hovav Zafrir, Danielle Ilzycer, Noam Weisbrod

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Nuclear simulation methods were applied to two systems that investigate radon transport within geological porous media: a) a laboratory system built to test, under controlled climate conditions, the effect of temperature on radon transport, and b) a field monitoring system comprising gamma and alpha detectors in an abandoned water well. The use of Monte Carlo simulations of NaI and BGO scintillation detectors in continuous underground radon measurements by gamma counting, to estimate the photon flux in the detector volume, is presented. The advantages of shielding side-view NaI detectors were demonstrated for a laboratory system containing ground phosphate rock, including avoiding high counting rates and reducing the effective source volume in radon transport studies. The gross gamma counting procedure was shown to result in a lower uncertainty than spectrometric measurement, by at least a factor of two, despite it being a simpler and more suitable procedure for field measurements. The calculation of simulated source volumes for a BGO detector in a borehole and the measurements in the field support the assumption that the gamma signal comes primarily from radon flowing in the bedrock's air-filled pores. As a practical outcome of this study, positioning the detector a few cm off-center from the borehole's axis increased the gamma counting efficiency; however, measurements in groundwater taken too close to the iron casing had a lower detection efficiency. The conversion factor from the scintillator signal to the radon activity concentration, for the laboratory system, was calculated. Monte Carlo simulations demonstrated the advantages of the gross counting procedures using gamma scintillation detectors in field underground high-frequency radon monitoring.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106693
JournalJournal of Environmental Radioactivity
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2021


  • Borehole radon monitoring
  • Gross gamma counting
  • Monte Carlo simulations
  • Scintillation detector


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