Regardless of what is mined, most underground operations produce radon or some kind of radon daughter products, which can make the breathing environment harmful for workers. Australian Mining finds out how Nu Scientific’s range of Radon Scout products protect workers.
Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas, which comes from the radioactive decay of uranium, the source of radon and is an extremely abundant element found in over 2700 rock types in Australia alone. It is present in small amounts in rocks, water and soil. It can easily escape from the ground and into the air where it can be inhaled.
Although radon has no smell, is colourless and tasteless, exposure to radioactive gases like radon and boron and radon daughter products can cause serious long-term health issues for workers.
Humans can be at risk of inhaling radon in some homes, caves or poorly ventilated underground mines, in particular uranium or coal mines.
Some of the potential health risks of exposure to radon and radon progeny, which can attach to dust and other particles and be breathed into the lungs, include breathing difficulties, lung illnesses and even lung cancer.
To keep mine workers safe from the risk of inhaling harmful radioactive gases, Nu Scientific’s SARAD range has developed the Radon Scouts range of monitors, allowing mine operators and employees to monitor levels to ensure a safe workplace.
SARAD’s Radon Scout models measure the regulated activity levels set by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA), they are small devices at 82x96x44 millimetres, but they are extremely sensitive. They track not only radiation levels but also humidity, carbon dioxide and barometric pressure.
As Nu Scientific owner Graeme McDonnell explains, despite Australia’s relatively low radon levels on a global scale, having a safe monitoring system is hugely important for the safety of underground mine workers.
“Most mines will produce radon, it’s a gas that is common where air is not moving and there are certain materials in the earth,” McDonnell tells Australian Mining.
“The radon itself often isn’t too harmful but the daughter products are very harmful for people to breathe in and the alpha particles can do a lot of damage.”
According to the Radon in the Environment report by Howard M Pritchard and Thomas F Gesell, the alpha particles of radon daughter decay products, like bismuth, cause most cancers attributed to radon exposure.
McDonnell says with correct ventilation, radon disperses quite quickly, but for many mining operations there can be pockets of the element in the underground areas where people are working, exposing them to the risks and monitoring is recommended.
“What Nu Scientific’s products do is monitor the radon with sensors that can monitor personnel or areas for radon and or daughter products, which are the dangerous ones,” McDonnell explains.
“Our Radon Scouts Professional range is designed to be positioned in areas like this or worn by workers to detect dangerous levels of the gas.”
Nu Scientific’s Radon Scout range monitors not only radon levels but has additional sensors for temperature and humidity, as well as the option to add barometric pressure and carbon dioxide (CO2) monitors.
Radon Scout products provide a fast and accurate measurement, which allows the direct control of ventilation systems to maintain the required radon threshold.
“Due to the detector technology, the instrument will not be affected by any variations of temperature and humidity, external radiation, mechanical shocks and vibrations,” McDonnell says.
“These features make the Radon Scout Professional the very first choice for short- and long-term radon sampling, as well as for personal dosimetry for a fast and statistically accurate measurement.”
Not much larger than a mobile phone, Nu Scientific’s Radon Scout models are user friendly and innovative, sending data information through to a central point for mine operators and managers to monitor.
The liquid crystal display (LCD) screen shows the radon levels to the user and it can also be shared via a new software called Rooms, which displays up to eight devices’ radon levels and results, allowing several areas of the mine to be monitored by the same operator.
All that is needed to power the Radon Scout is two AAA batteries, which will last for several months of autonomous operation.
Unlike many other radon monitors, Nu Scientific’s Radon Scout does not require a drying cell to test accurate radon level results.
“The Smart Radon sensor will have Wi-Fi incorporated within the next one to two months, making it an excellent choice for area monitoring,” McDonnell explains.
“The Radon Scout detector technology defines a new level. It features outstanding sensitivity at dosimeter size.”
Nu Scientific has a large range of Radon and daughter monitoring instruments for all levels of detection.
This article also appears in the September issue of Australian Mining.