Radionuclides from Nuclear Fission Activities

Sr-89/90 by Cerenkov Counting

Due to the limitation of the Cerenkov Effect to higher β-energies, small amounts of high energetic radionuclides may be determined in presence of much higher amounts of low energy β-emitters, whereas conventional measurement of dual β-emitters in the same sample requires window setting and three quench correction curves.

Cerenkov counting therefore allows the rapid determination of both radioistrontium nuclides 89Sr and 90Sr in two single counting steps without time wasting 90Y ingrowth. While both nuclides (90Sr: Eβmax = 0.5 MeV, 89Sr: Eβmax = 1.5 MeV) are accessible to scintillation measurement with window setting (see dual labelling, procedure 2.1.2.), only 89Sr creates Cerenkov radiation in water with counting efficiencies of 40 to 60 % without chemical quenching (fig. 10). For 90Sr, the Cerenkov light part is < 0.5 %, which allows its sufficient discrimination from 89Sr in an excess of up to 20 fold.

Alternate procedures applying Cerenkov counting foresee the selective separation of 90Y and its successive Cerenkov measurement, or 90Sr separation e.g. by Sr SPEC columns, its elution with diluted HNO3 followed by repeated Cerenkov counting of the ingrowing 90Y. For a detailed survey see [L’Annunziata 2012] and [Vajda 2010].

The method described below can be improved by applying TDCR-Cerenkov counting to avoid the efficiency calibration procedure, when a LS counter with three identical photomultipliers is available (HIDEX 300SL) (see chapter 2.3.5.).


Materials and Equipment

  • Gelating cocktail
  • Plastic vial



The separation of Sr/Y is either done by oxalate precipitation or on Eichrom/ TrisKem SPEC extraction chromatographic columns (see 2.3.2.).


Measuring Procedure (a):

    • Sample measurement in aqueous solution (only 89Sr)
    • Sample measurement with scintillator (89Sr and 90Sr)

(1) Measure 5 mL of the colorless aqueous sample in a plastic vial (energy window 0-15 keV)

(2) Add 10 mL of a gelating cocktail; mix well and remeasure in an open energy

Measurements have to be done immediately after chemical separation in order to neglect 90Y ingrowth (1 % after 1 hour).

The Cerenkov efficiency for 90Sr with Emax = 546 keV is less than 1 %.


Measuring Procedure (b):

    • Sample measurement in aqueous solution (only 89Sr)
    • Sample measurement after storage and determination of the 90Sr activity from the ingrowth of 90Y

(1) Measure the colorless aqueous sample (up to 20 mL) in a plastic vial (energy window 0 to 15 keV)

(2) Repeat the measurement after different times of storage


Note: The Cerenkov counting window is typically 0-15 keV! Plastic vials are preferable compared to glass vials because of their higher Cerenkov counting efficiency.




Procedure (a):

Determine the Cerenkov efficiencies for 89Sr and the scintillation counting efficiencies for both Sr-isotopes. While Cerenkov counting of colorless samples is absent of chemical quenching, scintillation counting needs internal standardization or other appropriate quench calibration methods according to chapter 1.2 and 2.1.1.

The activities are calculated according to:

Procedure (b):

The activity ingrowth of the 90Y and accordingly the 90Sr concentration follows the exponential ingrowth (fig. 29).

and in equilibrium condition (> 25 d)


= time difference between measurement after separation and after equilibration and

A0(89Sr) = Activity after separation


For more details in calculation see [BMU 2000].

Figure 29: Activity conditions in the system 89Sr and 90Sr/90Y


Yield recovery for the chemical Sr/Y separation steps is determined by ICP-MS or ICP-OES through addition of 30 mg of Sr2+ carrier to the sample. The addition of a 85Sr tracer interferes with LS counting and should be avoided, especially when TDCR Cerenkov Counting is applied.

This calculation method can also be applied for the analysis of dual mixtures of α- and β-emitting radionuclides, when Eβmax exceeds 0.5 MeV and the α-nuclide does not emit γ-rays exceeding about 450 keV (e.g. 32P / 241Am).

Lower Limit of Detection LLD: about 25 mBq per sample, but lower with preconcentration

L’Annunziata M.F. 2012: “Handbook of Radioactivity Analysis”, Chapter 15, 3rd Edition 2012, Elsevier

BMU 2000: Messanleitungen für die Überwachung der Radioaktivität in der Umwelt und zur Erfassung radioaktiver Emissionen aus kerntechnischen Anlagen; Der Minister für Umwelt, Naturschutz und Reaktorsicherheit, Urban und Fischer, München, H-α-Gesamt-AWASS-01

BMU 2000: Messanleitungen Umweltradioaktivität H-Rn-222-TWASS-01, 4.1

Kalibrierung; see also Sr-analysis and others

Vajda N. and Kim C-K. 2010: Determination of Radiostrontium Isotopes – A review of analytical methodology; Appl. Radiat. Isot. 68 (2010) 2306-2326