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Book Review: Practical Field Handbook in Industrial Radiography and Radiography Interpretation

By Brian Sargent, Co-owner, IR Supplies and Services

Several months ago, when I found out about Dr. Rehman’s and Mr. Jaques’ new publication, Practical Field Handbook in Industrial Radiography and Radiography Interpretation, I immediately inquired to George about obtaining a copy. In my years as a radiographer I had never come across Dr. Rehman but I did hear the name George Jaques. George’s name came up from time to time as he steadily became a regarded and respected authority within our NDT community. In 2012 George become a CGSB level lll where he excelled as an auditor in radiography working for the likes of RTD as their level lll in Fort McMurray, and later as a consultant to Suncor, Syncrude, Enbridge, CNRL, Kinder Morgan, TransCanada and many more.

Dr. Aziz Rehman is an accomplished engineer with two master’s degrees, a PhD in NDT, two post doctorates, along with many industry credentials that include several CGSB NDT Level lll accreditations including radiography. Dr. Rehman is active in research and regularly contributes to the NDT industry via technical papers, conferences, engineering and technical forums worldwide.

Both Dr. Rehman and Mr. Jaques have worked extensively in the oil and energy industry in Western Canada and it is from this viewpoint that their new book Practical Field Handbook in Industrial Radiography and Radiography Interpretation really excels as an unprecedented work of significant importance.

The book is comprised of 9 sections, split into 36 units with an additional 4 appendices. The purpose of this report is to review the work of the authors from my standpoint as a past field radiographer and in my current position as a supplier of goods and services to the industry including radiation sources and exposure devices. For the record I have not been a practicing radiographer for about 10 years and much has changed in that time. I’d like to feel that my partner Rob Muschket and I have had something to do with that. IR’s mission states our intentions:

We place the needs of the client above all else by providing exceptional NDT products and services from industry leaders and innovators, and supporting those products and services in every possible way.

 The underlying premise of this statement is the reason we started IR and it is still as genuine today as ever. The honeymoon is over however and we are more than just a supply and service company for radiography. We do like to think of ourselves as innovators and in the forefront of technology so with much conviction and this weak position of authority I will attempt to give my honest impressions of a Practical Field Handbook in Industrial Radiography and Radiography Interpretation.

Here goes…

Section 1: Principles & Theories of Industrial Radiography

Units 1, 2 and 3 cover the principles and theories of radiography. As you would imagine basic physics is covered from gamma rays to x-rays, alpha and beta particles and other common elements of the electromagnetic spectrum. But what is obvious right off the bat is how this text is going to support the field technician in a practical approach. Unit 1 immediately describes what industrial radiography is, and before you are 45 words in, it is guiding the reader to understand that radiography has its limitations, describing those limitations and guiding you on to the first of many tables that provides thickness ranges of materials for several ranges of x-ray strengths.

The first unit then continues to direct us through the production of x-rays, and gamma rays the effects of ionization and the “common characteristics of x-and gamma-rays”. On the practical side the authors inject a rule of thumb for selecting the correct kV for aluminum, steel and plastics, a schematic of x-ray tube heal effects along with a short piece on linear accelerators. Though the authors are correct that LINAC’s are not very portable especially at higher energies, there are now available field portable Betatrons that will reach very high energies, up to 9 MeV.

Unit 2 covers radiography definitions, terminologies and equations. As you will no doubt become bored with my continuing to expound the practical approach to this text, I will try to control it but once again it surfaces as this unit has practical definitions and terminologies and equations that readily apply to everyday use. The authors did not overload this unit with little-used information. It is short and sweet with tables that could be used every day in all radiography applications. Half value layers for both x-ray and gamma-ray, equivalency factors, dose and dose rate units, along with imperial to SI conversions tables are presented for quick reference including the geometrical unsharpness calculation.

As we move into unit 3, Mathematical Application in Industrial Radiography, no less than 17 practical mathematical equations are presented. But what we don’t expect is 6 more pages of applications of these equations including some advanced lessons. I was a little disappointed that all the equations didn’t represent some real life applications however the many examples brought back untold memories of using them and the time and the difficulty I had of remembering or finding them when needed. You now have them all instantly available in this handbook with the miracle of digital access.

Section 2: Radiation Safety

My experience as a field radiographer spanned almost 25 years. I spent most of that time in upstream oil and gas, using gamma sources in pneumatic devices, and then for a short time, cable driven devices. I performed some x-ray, mostly on castings.  However the largest portion of my 45 years in this industry has been as an RSO, manager and owner of NDT service companies and now as the co-owner of IR Supplies and Services. I consider myself somewhat of an authority in radiation safety and source retrieval. So when I read unit 4, Radiation Safety and Regulations I have to admit I was slightly disappointed, even before I was finished the first page. My disappointment soon abated as I continued on and read through unit 5. Both units cover very practical applications for radiation safety and regulatory compliance as it applies to field radiography and should however not be considered more than that. This book is not meant to explore the world of radiation safety, that’s a text of its own. Safety in any industry is and should be constantly improving and evolving but old habits are wont to hang around and I found a little of that in this unit.

I have three concerns in Unit 4. First was the point that mentions “bolt cutters (11/2meter tongs) or shearing device” as one of the requirements of a field audit. The CNSC regulation states that “every licensee who authorizes a person to operate an exposure device shall provide the person with tools that can sever from the exposure device the tube and cable to which the sealed source assembly is attached”.  This regulation makes me shudder especially when bolt cutters are mentioned.  In section (7) the NSRD regulations go on to expressly state that any person who picks up these tools to retrieve a source must be well trained. I am not sure of the NRC requirements, however I have seen firsthand the damage caused by bolt cutters and the near misses that could have been catastrophic. I am truly haunted by those incidents and though the authors are technically correct I think some caveats need to be included here. I have never been in a modern day retrieval or heard of one that required the use of bolt cutters. They could be useful but I have never encountered it, though I am constantly asked during retrievals if it is time to pull them out. In my opinion there has always been a better way. Proper training and the right tools remove the use of bolt cutters in my opinion and that type of severing mechanism should not be allowed in the average emergency tool box. A hack saw would be a better tool and less likely to be used in haste.

My next thought for improvement are the words, “lead tunnel”. A lead tunnel is an excellent tool but it is only one tool in a retrieval tool kit. The authors do go on later to correctly identify that the regulatory requirement is to be able to attenuate a radiation source by a factor of 100. Too many radiographers simply rely on a lead tunnel (there is no regulation that says the lead tunnel needs to attenuate by 100) as the ultimate shielding mechanism. I do believe that this attitude is changing but I have found myself, more than once while aiding in creating a retrieval plan over my cell phone during an emergency situation, where an overly large museum quality lead tunnel from the days of pneumatic devices was used with very unsatisfying results. Let me be very clear; the large lead tunnels of days gone by may have some use in the rarest of instances but personally I would not carry one. Today’s smaller more nimble tunnels and lead shot bags along with pliable sheeting materials that can be used with lanyards, are better choices and far more reliable in an emergency situation. It is the combination of these tools that will provide the excellent protection needed during an emergency situation.

My third grievance is the use of imperial units and International system of units interchangeably. I may be splitting hairs with my grievances but in a safety context and in a retrieval operation it is imperative that one or the other is chosen. From a professional position I feel that either both systems should have been used or just one. Being a Canadian publication SI units would have been my preferred choice for these two sections however both are used in our industry and there may have been a good reason for the choices the authors made. As a safety concern when I am in a retrieval situation I must have consistency on this point and I have always insisted on using SI units. If I need someone or several someones to tell me a dose or dose rate I want them all to tell me in the same units.

In the end, units 4 and 5 carry on to provide very good tables and checklists that will quickly apply to most radiography situations and will help anyone begin to plan out a field procedure or work instruction.

Section 3: Radiographic Viewing

Units 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 is where this book really begins to shine as a practical guide for radiographers or other fans of the sport. These 5 units are sweeping in their scope and as complete as I can imagine in a truly practical guide. But the fascinating thing to me was I really enjoyed it. All the things I remember struggling with way back, I won’t say when, are very clearly explained in a very practical way. The tables, images and charts are numerous and easy to use. Everything you need to know about all the major film brands, right down to common usages of the various film speeds and types, calculating SNR, and the various screen materials available, it’s all in there in unit 6.

Unit 7 exhausts the aspects of image quality. It points to code requirements and how to achieve them and again it is filled with tables, this time to help understand and chose the proper IQIs.

Units 8 and 9 informs us about film processing and film quality. As the book title suggests and I am continually repeating, this is the most practical approach to film processing that I have ever come across. Excellent techniques for film handling and processing are given right down to a work instruction in table 8.1 that walks you through manual film development. Along with common development failures the authors have had the forethought to include some recommendations for reducing the risk of a reshot due to common development mistakes.

Unit 9 covers film quality, some best practices, when quality control should be stepped up, included with some common deficiencies and ways to correct them.

Another great feature of this guide is the use of flow charts and it is in these units that they start to appear. Flow charts are an excellent way to identify steps to a process and they are used intelligently in various sections of the book.

If I was able to find any deficiencies in section 3 it would have to be no mention of safelight filters and their tendency to fog film and how to test for this. I have seen many, many, types of safelights and they are all capable of fogging film if not used as designed or not used in the environments they were designed for. This is one test that everyone should perform from time to time. Today LED safelights are common but they are not all made equally. Some are adjustable in intensity, some are not but positioning, as well as the fact that LEDS have a habit of changing their output as they warm up, can at times make a big difference. For sure any new safelight, and when moving a safelight location, should be scrutinized and this should be done with all power sources used with that light. Lights used with inverters and generators can act differently than if they were only tested with shore power.

Section 4: Industrial Radiography Application Techniques

As section 3 was full of insight into radiographic viewing section 4 begins the excursion into getting that image in an acceptable fashion and usable condition. Section 4 contains five units 11 to 15 and discusses various radiographic techniques for pipe, tanks and vessels as well as castings. Aspects including, determining defect depth, exposure chart development, more on geometric unsharpness principles and ASME expectations, are discussed in detail and again in very practical applications for the field radiographer. There is a full unit dedicated to scatter and back scatter something that is often over looked by the field radiographer. Unit 15, the last unit in this section, discusses failed film exposures. This unit is not only great for the radiographer but also for managers and quality personnel who want to understand why non-conformance issues may be happening. This touches on an important aspect of this book. Almost every section discusses why problems may or do occur. This is one of the author’s greatest accomplishments because this text now becomes a reference guide for engineers and project managers who want to understand how, and more importantly why, radiographic processes affect their projects in the different ways that they can. By understanding the underlying reasons it becomes much easier to develop planning to mitigate or even eliminate risks associated with the discipline.

Once again the authors have spared no cost and continue to include many charts, graphs, images and other visual aids to make section 4 an indispensable wealth of everyday useful information. Also in section 4 we begin to see a few of the excellent reference radiographs that will dominate section 5.

Section 5: Radiographic Evaluation Interpretation and Reporting

Section 5 is made up of 4 more units comprising a full 40 more pages that are filled with reference radiographs of film artifacts, welding, casting and forging discontinuities. The radiographs depicted are superb and also excellent training aids. The first unit, 16, offers first rate insight into the radiographer’s responsibilities and reporting requirements. The following units, 17, 18 and 19, discuss discontinuities in the various processes, how they are formed and how to identify them. One of the great features of this book is that the authors continually identify regions where practical additional information can be inserted and they use their experience to place extra emphasis in those areas.

Section 6: Industrial Radiography Codes, Standards and Procedures

Codes and standards change. The authors understand this and any radiographer worth his or her salt has all current editions needed along with them for the ride to the jobsite. However the next 80 or so pages from unit 20 to unit 25 discuss code requirements and how to interpret them.  Understanding how to interpret codes and standards is somewhat of an art and in my opinion not enough training was ever done in this area during my time in the field. The authors spend a lot of space on coaching practical applications of codes and standards and identify some of the less understood aspects of code interpretation. Whether a standard or code in this book becomes outdated is irrelevant as the intent here is to teach the student how to use and interpret them properly. The units use all the great charts, figures and radiographic images that we have come to expect and at the end the authors have added in practical questions to test the reader’s knowledge and skill. The codes and standards section of this publication helps the reader really understand how to reference the information and the terminology used. This is an extremely valuable portion of this book and the questions used in here could be incorporated into any company’s employee evaluations and training.

Section 7: Industrial Radiography Professional Certification

Section 7 leads us into the wide world of certifications how and when they can be attained along the radiographer’s career path with sample questions for every level. This section is again loaded with wonderful reference radiographs that only adds more value to this handbook. They include more film artifacts along with weld, forging and casting discontinuities. The last unit, 30, provides the path to the development of an inspection procedure and a sample of this done in accordance with CSA Z662 is supplied. Once again the authors are extremely thorough, with a very practical approach.

Section 8: Advancements in Industrial Radiography

Five units make up Advancements in Industrial Radiography starting with Digital and Computed Radiography. Next comes the addition of Selenium into the radiographer’s isotope quiver, the devices used to house it, and the advantages of both the isotope and the SCAR devices designed to acquire images in confined areas. The last two units discuss RTR and its emergence as a main tool in the downstream mainline pipeline industry along with the internal crawler units still occupying the position as the main source of energies for those systems although external radiation sources for RTR systems are proving to be a cost effective way to use this modern modality. For those of us curious about some of the newer developments in radiography, and we all should be, these sections give a quick overview, cutting to the chase, and acts as a great stepping off point for research into a deeper understanding of new technologies that can fill gaps in a radiographer’s tool kit.

Section 9: Appendices

Section 9 starts the end of this journey but marks just the beginning of what you would expect from a field handbook. If there is something missing that would make this book better it likely can be found in the appendices. From more tables, images and techniques to a glossary of terms the authors seemingly have left nothing of the practical sort out. In here you will also find the answers to the sample questions throughout the publication.

When I finished Practical Field Handbook in Industrial Radiography and Radiography Interpretation, I felt like I had relived the journey of my 25 years as a field industrial radiographer. With an innate and purposeful mission the authors have set out to devise a truly practical handbook and in my mind they have hit the bullseye. This may not be the only book you will ever want to own on radiography but it’s the one you will continue to go back to for the rest of your career. There is no person in my opinion, who has anything to do with radiography that will not benefit from owning this book. Managers and project engineers will be able to use this book to understand how to better plan radiography and gain an understanding of the techniques and even technologies available to them. Quality personnel will be able to better understand what radiography is telling them and why.  Trainers and students alike finally have a practical text that literally uses real everyday practical application, and the radiographer will find it as an invaluable reference tool. Anyone interested in radiography for any reason should have a copy of this handbook.

I hope you enjoyed my look at this new, and I feel important, work by George W. Jaques and Dr. Aziz U. Rehman. I wish I’d had it 40 years ago!