We discuss the problems and calibration procedures for a portable gamma-ray scintillation spectrometer for determinations of potassium, uranium and thorium concentration in rocks. Particular emphasis was given to the evaluation of the background radiation. The apparatus was tested in the field at two selected areas in NW Italy. We found appropriate sites which could be used as reference targets to frequently check the gamma-ray equipment. An area formed by serpentinitic rocks showed such a low measured radioactivity that it could be used as a reference for the local background effect. An anomalously high uranium amount against negligible potassium and thorium concentrations were found in outcrops of dolomitic rocks, which can be used to detect possible changes in the instrument calibration constants. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
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