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Consider a sample of uranium-238 that is undergoing decay to thorium-234. During the transmutation, a gamma ray is emitted from the nucleus. However, the thorium-234 daughter particle does not decay quickly enough to be detected.

What kind of storage container should the uranium sample be stored in to minimise radiation exposure?

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Due to its very long half-life, U-238 is not particularly radioactive; the specific activity is only about 12 kBq/g. The emission probability of gamma radiation is less than 0.1 % per disintegration of U-238. Furthermore, the gamma energy is relatively low. Therefore, the direct gamma radiation from pure U-238 (i.e. disregarding Th-234 and further decay products) is usually insignificant.

For example, the gamma dose rate in 1 m distance from 1 kg of pure U-238 (about 12 MBq) is only approximately 0.1 nSv/h – probably less due to self-absorption. By way of comparison, the dose rate from natural background radiation amounts to about 100 nSv/h.

Nearly all of the alpha radiation from U-238 is absorbed within the sample. Only a small fraction originating from the surface of the sample can escape but is stopped by air within a distance of about 3 cm.

Therefore, you do not need any shielding. Just use a suitable closed container to prevent contamination or incorporation.

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