Radiological evaluation of industrial residues for construction purposes correlated with their chemical properties

Zoltan Sas, Niels Vandevenne, Rory Doherty, Raffaele Vinai, Jacek Kwasny, Mark Russell, Wei Sha, Marios Soutsos, Wouter Schroeyers

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This study characterises the naturally occurring radionuclide (NOR) contents of a suite of secondary raw materials or industrial residues that are normally disposed of in landfills or lagoons but now are increasingly used in green concretes. This includes ashes from a variety of industrial processes and red mud from aluminium production, as well as air pollution control residue and cement kiln dust. The chemical composition of the samples was determined with X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy (XRF). The Ra-226, Th-232 and K-40 activity concentrations were obtained by gamma spectrometry, and the results were compared with recently published NOR databases. The correlation between the NOR contents and the main chemical composition was investigated. The radioactive equilibrium in the U-238 chain was studied based on the determination of progeny isotopes. The most commonly used calculation methods (activity concentration index and radium equivalent concentration) were applied to classify the samples. The radon exhalation rate of the samples was measured, and the radon emanation coefficient was calculated. Significant correlation was found between the NORs and certain chemical components. The massic exhalation demonstrated a broad range, and it was found that the emanation coefficients were significantly lower in the case of the residues generated as a result of high-temperature combustion processes. The results showed a weak correlation between the Ra-226 concentration and the radon exhalation. This emphasises that managing the Ra-226 content of recycled material by itself is not sufficient to control the radon exhalation of recycled materials used in building products. The investigated parameters and their correlation behaviour could be used to source apportion materials found during the process of landfill mining and recovery of material for recycling.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)141-151
Number of pages11
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date05 Dec 2018
Publication statusPublished - 25 Mar 2019


  • Gamma spectrometry
  • Radon emanation
  • Radon exhalation
  • Recycling
  • Red mud


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