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Radioisotope Decay - A. A.

Gui, RPO Consult
The equations used in the calculations of attenuation of collimated photon beam by slab are
very similar to those used for in the calculations relating the radioisotope decay. In the latter
case, the equations concerned are:

[1]

T
1/2

=

[2]

[3]
where A
0
, A
t
are the activities at time 0 and t respectively, is the decay constant for the
radioisotope, T
1/2
= half-life, and n is the number of half-lives elapsed from time 0 to time t.
The following examples demonstrate the application of the above equations:
1. A nuclear gauge uses a radioactive source with a half-life of 5 years. At the time of
purchase the vendor informs the buyer that the source has to be replaced when its activity
drops to 25% of its original value. How long after the purchase must the buyer replace the
source?
a. Method 1, using Eq. [1] and [2]
When the initial source activity decays to 25%,

/

=0.25 =1/4
Taking natural logarithm on both sides, ln(0.25) = - t or -1.3863 = - t
Thus, t = 1.3863/
From Eq. [2], = 0.6931*/T
1/2
= 0.6931/ 5 = 0.1386 year
-1

Thus t = 1.3863/0.13863 = 10 years.
b. Method 2, useing Eq. [3]
¼ = 1/2
n
, therefore 4 = 2
n
, and n=2 (number of half lives)
Hence t = 2*/T
1/2
= 2*5 =10 years.
[Note: be careful about the units, should be consistent]

2. A hospital needs about 1MBq of a radioisotope with a half-life of 15 minutes. One hour is
required for the supplier to ship the radioisotope from his plant to the hospital. What is
the activity of the radioisotope just before it is shipped from the supplier?
a. Method 1
Using Eq. [3], and

= 1MBq, t = 1 hr = 60 min, T
1/2
= 15 min
n = no. of T
1/2
= 60/15 = 4
From Eq. [3],

=

* 2
n
= 1 MBq * 2
4
= 16 MBq

b. Method 2
From Eq. [1], A
0
= A
t
*

From Eq. [2], = 0.6931*/T
1/2
= 0.6931/ 15 = 0.04621 min
-1

t = 0.04621 min
-1
* 60 min = 2.7726
Thus, A
0
= 1 MBq * e
2.7726
= 16 MBq.
Now try these problems:
1. At 06:00 hr, the dose rate at 1m from a radioactive source with a half-life of 6 hr is 100
µSv/h. What is the dose rate at 1m at 18:00 hr? [25 µSv/h]
2. Co-60 (half-life = 5.3 yrs.) is used as a radiation source in radiography of pipe welds.
Because of radioactive decay, the exposure time of a radiograph have to be increased
annually. Calculate the correction factor to be applied to the exposure time in order to
account for the annual decrease in the source strength. [Ans. correction factor = 1.14]
3. Scientists believe the Earth is 4.6 billion years old, what percentage of the uranium-238
originally present remains if the half life of uranium-238 is 4.5 billion years? [49.45%
remains]