Katherine ( Neuqua Valley H.S.)
Mentor: Amber Kenney, Meka Francis, Eric Korzeniowski, Matt
Working with Fermilab ESH&Q was an eye-opening experience. I sampled waters around Fermilab and counted them for tritium with a liquid scintillation counting machine. The Quarknet internship gave me a birds-eye view of the entire ESH&Q sample processing, from the collection to the counting. The primary goal of my project was to improve or validate Fermilab's sample preparation methods. I also hoped to learn more about radiation in the environment and how it was detected, specifically how the liquid scintillation counting machine worked. I used two different preparation procedures. The first, from the EPA, was Method 906.0, which involved adding sodium hydroxide and potassium permanganate to the sample to cleanse it and then distilling it. The accuracy, precision, and other factors like cost and time were compared with the current Fermilab method of filtering the sample through a .45 um filter, Procedure 210 of the Radionuclide Analysis Facility.
I collected 6 samples from various creeks and ponds around Fermilab. In all 6 samples, the activity calculated from the counts received from samples prepared with the Fermilab method matched up to the activity calculated from counts from samples prepared with the EPA method, considering error bars of one standard deviation. This was enough to validate that Fermilab's quicker and more efficient sampling method lived up to the gold standard of the EPA. Fermilab's method is also better because it does not produce chemical and mixed waste like the EPA method does.