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CBR Survey and Detection of Radiologicals
A Little History

WMD Hunting, Main-----Technology-----History-----Glossary-----Links

Factors influencing Detection-----Attributes that can Improve Detection

 Uranium Prospecting
Typical of scenes in the 1950s 
-----------when the promise of becoming a millionaire was real.   See Moab History
The cheapest and most prolific detector was the Geiger Counter.  A much more sensitive and more expensive detector was the Scintillation Counter.
Geiger Counters
Scintillation Counters

Geiger Muller Tube

Scintillation Counter Assembly
The tube is filled with Argon gas, with ~ 400 Volts applied to the thin wire in the center. When a particle enters the tube, it pulls an electron from an Argon gas atom. The electron is attracted to the central wire, and as it rushes towards the wire, the electron will knock other electrons from Argon atoms, causing an "avalanche". Thus one single incoming particle will cause a number of electrons to arrive at the wire, creating a pulse which is amplified and counted.   Scintillation Detectors" work by the radiation striking a suitable material called a Scintillator (such as Sodium Iodide), and producing a very short flash of light. This is amplified by a "photomultiplier tube" which results in a burst of electrons large enough to be detected. Scintillation detectors form the basis of the hand-held instruments used to monitor contamination in nuclear power stations. They detect Alpha, Beta, and Gamma radiation.
GM Tube
PM Tube

GM tube in Alpha Probe 

PM Tube in Alpha Probe 
---------------- My Prospecting Trip   See my day in Moab- -
Looking for Radiological WMD is like prospecting for Uranium deposits in the western states.
That is, a survey in a grid pattern (raster) back and forth logging sensor data to be analyzed in its entirety looking for subtle trends.

In 1958 I went prospecting for uranium near Moab Utah in the 'Four Corners' area. I used a Scintillation Counter stuck inside a 75 lb. lead shield which was mounted under a hole on the passenger side floorboard of my pickup truck--with its opening facing the ground. 

Mockup of original outfit
I used a Scintillation Counter inside a 75 lb. lead shield which was mounted under a hole on the passenger side floorboard of my pickup truck--with the opening facing the ground.
75 lb. lead shield mounted under passenger side floorboard.
Attached to the Scintillation counter was a strip recorder of my own design (a rubber bladder fountain pen, attached to a swing arm that was driven by a modified DC relay--sans core--as the 'meter movement,' all powered by two KT66 audio power tubes. Power was supplied by a vibrator powered 12 Volt to 120 VAC inverter.

The strip chart was 3" adding machine tape. That damn thing actually worked!

Anyway--again, the idea was to drive in a raster pattern over the terrain of interest, collecting data, and later analyzing the strips laid out in rows replicating the survey pattern.

Sadly I didn't find any deposits, but it was quite an adventure for a 19 year old preparing to go into the service.

Four Corners Area
Typical Terrain


A Little Moab History
In early 1952 an unemployed Texas geologist named Charley Steen discovered one of the World's largest concentrations of uranium ore near Moab, Utah. Steen became an instant millionaire and set off a modern day mining boom. His Mi Vida Mine is famous for sitting in the largest high-grade pitchblende (uranium) ore body ever discovered in the United States, last valued at more than 160 Million (1953 dollars). This discovery unleashed a massive "uranium boom" on the Colorado Plateau, and turned tiny Moab, UT into "the uranium capital of the world." The mine closed in the 1980s.
My day in Moab
On my prospecting trip in 1958 I was in Moab and saw the "Steen Estate."  It was a Butte rising nearly straight up with a carved out driveway that lead from the highway circuitously to the top. There were cyclone fencing completely surrounding the base of the butte, as was the driveway on both sides, with gates at intervals. At the time I was there, there were at least three core drilling machines spaced out on the driveway, looking--I suppose--for more uranium. 

Finally, at the top of the butte, the house, grounds and pool was surrounded by a high wood privacy fence. It was all too surreal.


Another prospector of note was Vernon Pick, a middle-aged electrician from Minnesota, who discovered the Delta Mine (Hidden Splendor) northwest of Hanksville in 1952.

Pick extracted a million dollars worth of ore before selling the mine to international financier Floyd Odlum's Atlas Corporation for $9 million and a custom-converted PBY airplane.

Odlum was certain the mine was a rich find and his geologists estimated the mine held 540,000 tons of uranium ore with an in-place value of forty dollars per ton. This would have made the mine worth nearly 22 million dollars.  However, the Atlas Corporation only extracted 90,000 tons of ore from the mine before abandoning it in 1957. Local wags then dubbed the mine "Odlum's Hidden Blunder". After Atlas Corporation left several others tried unsuccessfully to extract ore. The Uranus Corporation took over the mine for a short time in cooperation with Central Oil. The Hidden Splendor Mine closed in 1957 and was eventually sold for taxes.

In November 1, 1954 Life Magazine (Color cover - Dorothy Dandrige) published an 11-page article titled "Vernon Pick's $10 million Ordeal" that detailed the discovery of the Delta Mine. Publicity from this article greatly increased prospecting in the San Rafael Swell and surrounding Colorado Plateau and made the Delta Mine famous. 

WMD Hunting, Main-----Technology-----History-----Glossary-----Links

Factors influencing Detection-----Attributes that can Improve Detection


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