Hello from North Carolina in USA

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Rob Tayloe
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Joined: 10 Nov 2020, 12:00
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Hello from North Carolina in USA

Post by Rob Tayloe » 10 Nov 2020, 13:01

I am actually re-joining Steven's forum as my old login didn't work, but I've not been on for some years. I also use to be somewhat active on the gamma spec and more general radiation forum on Yahoo some years back.

At present I am a retired nuclear engineer with undergrad degree from North Carolina State Univ. and grad school at The Ohio State Univ.

I did a brief stint at a nuclear power plant in NC and thought that was where I'd wind up, but I interviewed with Goodyear Atomic (yes the tire company had an atomic division). Goodyear Atomic ran a uranium enrichment facility in southern Ohio for the US Department of Energy. I worked in the nuclear criticality safety group. After a few years the US government cancelled plans for a new uranium enrichment plant (after spending around $2,000,000,000 !!) and many folks were invited to seek alternate circumstances. I accepted this offer and moved to Columbus, Ohio and started working for Battelle Labs. This gave me the opportunity to get involved in many interesting projects at various US government facilities and involving nuclear reactors (both research and power plants). I also got to do some work with accelerators in the US and UK.

Battelle determined that it would be better for them to operate labs for the US government. At this time I believe that Battelle is involved in the operation of the Pacific Northwest National Lab, Oak Ridge National Lab, Brookhaven National Lab, Idaho National Lab, Los Alamos National Lab, and Livermore National Lab. I wanted to remain in Columbus and started doing consulting; some of which was for US labs and other facilities.

As a professional engineer I was compelled to get continuing education. As a result I ended up taking every nuclear engineering class offered at Ohio State Univ. At some point I was asked about teaching some of these classes. Initially I was just filling in for faculty when they were absent. I was able to get a proposal accepted that allowed for the creation and expansion of some new courses. These courses included Nuclear Criticality Safety, Nuclear Security, and an undergraduate nuclear laboratory. I also begin teaching the nuclear reactor dynamics course to graduate students.

I think that I learned more in setting up the undergraduate nuclear laboratory course than I did in all of my prior education. Or maybe it just seemed that way and I could use stuff from the past. When I was an undergrad at NC State, I only needed a couple of credits to graduate in my final year, more hours were needed however to stay in the dorm. I started taking some nuclear physics measurement classes to get more credit hours. This was a really neat class. Gamma spectrometry involved generating paper tapes with the spectrum and then punch cards were used to read in the paper tape and execute fortran programs to produce plots and evaluate spectra. Anyone recall the red and white paperback book by Bevington "Data Reduction and Error Analysis for the Physical Sciences"? My copy got pretty dog eared from use.

In creating the new undergrad nuclear lab at Ohio State I drew from many of the experiments done from my old nuclear physics labs. Ohio State, like NC State has an on-campus research reactor. The reactor was very useful to have access to.

The more popular labs were 1) approach to critical - each student would have a supervised opportunity to "drive" the reactor; and 2) gamma spectrometry. In the gamma spec. lab we had three stations. One with NaI, one with CZT, and one with HPGe. We used the Spectrum Techniques UCS30 mca for the NaI and CZT detectors and a Canberra system for the HPGe. The Spectrum Techniques stuff is designed for educational purposes and is easy to use. The Canberra system not so much. The Canberra system was great for the professional staff, but for an occasional user there were some issues. Sometimes the students would get to learn some new swear words if they came in early and I had to set things up. I much preferred for the professional staff to do the set-up.

In the gamma spec labs students would do a simple energy calibration (about 5 points) and measure the FWHM for the 662 keV peak from Cs-137 (yes I know it is really Ba-137m) and either of the Co-60 peaks. The next week the student would have a challenge. I would present each group with five envelopes labeled A, B, C, D, and E. It was the job of the students to tell me what the radioisotope was in each envelope. We would do easy stuff like activate gold and silver. I would also include lutetium as it is interesting, but I also started getting some other metals and oxides that would produce some suitable results for spectrometry after neutron activation in the reactor.

I learned that universities such as Ohio State have money for big-time sports (e.g. American football), but sometimes don't have enough (in my opinion) for engineering labs. I scrounged to obtain detectors for students to use in projects. And I purchased quite a number of instruments myself.

I obtained Gamma Spectacular mca devices when Steven started making them. I think I have 5 or 6 now. I found these devices and a smallish NaI to work well for lecture demonstrations. Easy to set-up and illustrate the "fingerprint" generated by different radionuclides. Mostly I would use the Theremino software as it is easy to use. I do wish that this software had a proper energy calibration routine rather than sliders. But for a quick show and tell this is nice.

Now I just do this for my own interest. I volunteered to provide lectures and demonstrations at various high schools and colleges. Before Covid, I did a lecture at a local university for seniors (my peers!) in a lifelong learning course. Folks seemed pretty interested.

I am Rob Tayloe, retired nuclear engineer.

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Sesselmann
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Location: Sydney
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Re: Hello from North Carolina in USA

Post by Sesselmann » 10 Nov 2020, 13:09

Hi Rob,

Welcome back and thanks for the excellent introduction, it's great to hear that you still enjoy what you have spent a lifetime doing, I wish everyone was that lucky.

Steven

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iRad
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Location: Stuart, FL USA
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Re: Hello from North Carolina in USA

Post by iRad » 10 Nov 2020, 15:15

Hi Rob - Great to have you back again!
Cheers, Tom Hall / IRAD INC / Stuart, FL USA
Please check out my eBay Store: http://stores.ebay.com/The-Rad-Lab

luuk
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Re: Hello from North Carolina in USA

Post by luuk » 11 Nov 2020, 03:55

Hi Rob,
Nice to see you here.
Luuk

Rob Tayloe
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Joined: 10 Nov 2020, 12:00
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Re: Hello from North Carolina in USA

Post by Rob Tayloe » 12 Nov 2020, 02:59

One of the important life lessons that I seem to need reminding of is "try the simple fix first!".

As I mentioned I have several (6) gamma spectacular (GS) MCA devices spanning their evolution. I also have a number of laptop and desktop computers. I have long noticed that some GS MCAs worked with some laptops but not others.

Particularly aggravating was trying to use the new GS Pro devices that can directly supply input and get power via a single USB connection. For some reason I'd forgotten that the single wire used the SHV connector, no amount of encouragement would make the BNC connector work with one wire. I was using the 2 wire option into a splitter / combiner box and then I read an iRad review of the GS Pro where it was mentioned that one needed to use the SHV with the one wire setting. And look, I even have a cable with SHV on one end and BNC on the other. Now the one wire setup works as intended.

But why would some laptops work and others not? I looked and every laptop would switch to the USB Audio Codec, but several would not get any sound input. I tried deletion and reinstalling the audio drivers, but no luck. Then I remembered about the privacy settings. On some laptops I had used the privacy settings to turn off the camera and microphone. I had assumed this just applied to the internal laptop microphone. But no, this must disable all audio input. I used the privacy controls to allow apps to control the microphone and re-booted the laptop. Now when the GS Pro is plugged in I get an input signal and a very nice gamma spectrum can be observed. So check the simple fix first.

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Sesselmann
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Re: Hello from North Carolina in USA

Post by Sesselmann » 12 Nov 2020, 07:02

Rob,

Sounds like two separate issues you have been dealing with...

First of all the single and double wire issue, as far as I recall I always had a single/double wire selector switch on the GS, but on the PRO model it was relocated and put under the board. If you look under the unit there should be a small dip switch accessible through a hole in the enclosure. Some of the very early units had BNC connectors, but as the GS matured I switched to the more modern SHV for high voltage. This also eliminated confusion between high voltage and signal, which if swapped could destroy other equipment.

The second issue is the laptops..., computers evolved over the last 10 years, the old computers all had a line-in port with a regular stereo jack plug for the microphone, this worked perfectly with the GS as it used the tip as the left channel, but thanks to the popularity of the iPhone, computer manufacturers started replacing the line-in with the 4 ring headset jack TRRS, which stands for "Tip Ring Ring Sleeve" (electronic engineers are great with names). The TRRS connector for some reason has the microphone line on the sleeve and ground on the third ring, so it obviously won't work with the mono jack supplied with the GS. All is not lost as you can make an adaptor cable, I have instructions somewhere on my site here; viewtopic.php?f=15&t=255&p=1184

Steven

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MartinM
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Re: Hello from North Carolina in USA

Post by MartinM » 16 Nov 2020, 07:43

Hmm, criticality safety - that's a special field. You must have worked on interesting projects and materials...

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iRad
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Re: Hello from North Carolina in USA

Post by iRad » 16 Nov 2020, 08:32

Nuclear Criticality Safety is one of those specialized fields of study you hope you never ever need to use... but very good knowledge to have when needed.
Cheers, Tom Hall / IRAD INC / Stuart, FL USA
Please check out my eBay Store: http://stores.ebay.com/The-Rad-Lab

Rob Tayloe
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Re: Hello from North Carolina in USA

Post by Rob Tayloe » 16 Nov 2020, 12:30

At the uranium enrichment plant where I worked the uranium for nuclear power reactors contained about 5 wt% U-235, for research reactors about 19.8 wt% U-235, and for US defense programs (e.g. nuclear powered subs) above 90 wt%.

At the higher enrichment values the amount required for a criticality accident could be as small as a few kg in an aqueous (or hydrogenous) solution. We tried to avoid those situations. There are many factors in addition to enrichment and mass that affect criticality; those factors include geometry, leakage of neutrons (related to geometry), amount of moderators (to slow neutrons making capture and fission easier); and other materials competing with U-235 to absorb neutrons (referred to as "poisons"). It was quite interesting.

I used various types of radiation detectors to monitor plant conditions and locate potential problem areas.

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