Characterization of Particulates Containing Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials in Phosphate Processing Facility

인광석 취급 산업체에서 발생하는 천연방사성물질 함유 입자의 특성 평가

  • Received : 2013.12.05
  • Accepted : 2014.01.27
  • Published : 2014.03.31


Phosphate rock, phosphogypsum, and products in phosphate processing facility contain naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM). Therefore, they may give rise to enhanced radiation dose to workers due to inhalation of airborne particulates. Internal dose due to particle inhalation varies depending on particle properties. The objective of the present study was to characterize particle properties at the largest phosphate processing facility in Korea. A cascade impactor was employed to sample airborne particulates at various processing areas in the plant. The collected samples were used for characterization of particle size distribution, particle concentration in the air, and shape analysis. Aerodynamic diameters of airborne particulates ranged 0.03-100 ${\mu}m$ with the highest concentration at the particle size range of 4.7-5.8 ${\mu}m$ (geometric mean = 5.22 ${\mu}m$) or 5.8-9.0 ${\mu}m$ (geometric mean = 7.22 ${\mu}m$). Particle concentrations in the air varied widely by sampling area up to more than two orders of magnitude. The large variation resulted from the variability of mechanical operations and building ventilations. The airborne particulates appeared as spheroids or rough spherical fragments across all sampling areas and sampled size intervals. Average mass densities of phosphate rocks, phosphogypsums, and fertilizers were 3.1-3.4, 2.1-2.6, and 1.7 $gcm^{-3}$, respectively. Radioactivity concentration of uranium series in phosphate rocks varied with country of origin, ranging 94-866 $Bqkg^{-1}$. Among the uranium series, uranium was mostly concentrated on products, including phosphoric acid or fertilizers whereas radium was concentrated on byproducts or phosphogypsum. No significant radioactivity of $^{226}Ra$ and $^{228}Ra$ were found in fertilizer. However, $^{40}K$ concentration in fertilizer was up to 5,000 Bq $g^{-1}$. The database established in this study can be used for the accurate risk assessment of workers due to inhalation of airborne particles containing NORM. In addition, the findings can be used as a basic data for development of safety standard and guide and for practical radiation safety management at the facility.


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