Why Use Cf252 Instead of a Neutron Generator?

There are a number of important reasons for choosing an isotopic Californium 252 (Cf252) source rather than a neutron generator as the neutron source for an analyzer. They are:

Cf252 is simple and reliable. After decades of use and with thousands of sources shipped around the world no radiation has ever leaked from a double encapsulated source. In contrast, systems that utilize neutron generators present an increased risk of biological damage because the neutrons have a much higher energy. These same high energy neutrons can activate surrounding structural materials.

Cf252 is ALARA compliant and has a device registration with the NRC with the analyzer conforming to <2mRem/hr exposure limits at the system. Customer acquisition of a license to possess the Cf252 sources in the analyzer is a routine process with help available from SABIA to work with appropriate governing agency. Because analyzers with neutron generators are not ALARA compliant large amounts of shielding and a large exclusion zone (fenced, locked area) are necessary for worker safety. In some cases getting a license for a neutron generator may be problematic.

  1. Cf252 isotopic sources are not subject to any of the failure modes of neutron generators, which include high voltage supply, pulser, interlocks, computer control, and the neutron tube. Cf252 has not MTBF but the neutron tube is from eight to twenty four months. A Cf252 isotopic source is totally dependable for 23,000 hours before replenishment. A neutron tube has 8000 predicted life.


  1. Installation Cost Considerations.
Consideration Cf252 Isotopic Source Neutron Generator Tube
1.     Mass 2000 kg 12,000 kg
2.     Space No building required Building required
3.     Level Installs flat or on inclines Only on level surface
4.     Hazard No high voltage or high radiation High Voltage and High Radiation Levels


Cf252 is by far the safest, most reliable and cost effective neutron source for nuclear elemental analyzer solutions for cement, coal, and minerals.


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