Earth and Planetary Sciences ETDs

Publication Date

Fall 11-14-2018


Radioactive waste has accrued throughout the continental United States and in the Oceans surrounding the country. Significant quantities of the waste are poorly documented regarding their location and the radioisotopes contained in the waste. Locating the waste is not an easy matter, as its locations are not well documented, and its method of disposal may be covered with plants, soils, and sediments. A common tool used to locate the waste is a gamma spectrometer, which measure the gamma emissions spectrum of radionuclides. The effectiveness of this tool when utilized to locate gamma emitting waste may be reduced due to the presence of various waters. Of the types of waters that may be present, including groundwater, rivers, floodwaters, rainwater, etc., rainwater may present the most significant obstacle. While all waters cause a degree of attenuation, rainwater will also introduce additional radionuclides into the area, increasing the quantity of gamma emissions present, and obscuring the signal that the wastes emit. Rainwater has been found to increase the quantity of gamma emissions by as much as 20% over the emissions present in the absence of rainwater. Depending on the radionuclides present in the waste, this may present a significant obstacle to accurately locating the waste.

Degree Name

Earth and Planetary Sciences

Level of Degree


Department Name

Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences

First Committee Member (Chair)

Louis Scuderi

Second Committee Member

Gary S. Weissman

Third Committee Member

Jonathan Dowell




gamma radiation spectrometer rain new mexico lithology

Document Type


Included in

Geology Commons