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The IAEA estimates that several hundred thousand such gauges are operating in industry worldwide.They measure the amount of radiation from a source which has been absorbed in materials.Instead of the bulky machine needed to produce X-rays, all that is needed to produce effective gamma rays is a small pellet of radioactive material in a sealed titanium capsule.
Fixed gauges are typically used in production facilities – mines, mills, oil and gas platforms – as a means of controlling and monitoring quality from a production process.
For example, in the North Sea, fixed nucleonic gauges are sometimes deployed to determine conditions within separator vessels and to monitor residual oil content within separated gas streams.
Detectors placed opposite the sources register the breaking of the beam and hence the level of coal in the hopper.
Such level gauges are among the most common industrial uses of radioisotopes.
Nucleonic gauges are also used in the coal industry.