Atmospheric nuclear weapons explosions and large-scale nuclear accidents may contaminate large areas of land with the long-lived radionuclides 137Cs and 90Sr. The mobility and bioavailability of these radionuclides in the environment is dependent primarily on soil characteristics and changes significantly over time after fallout (1−4). Radioisotope concentrations in different rivers and at different times after fallout vary over 2−3 orders of magnitude. Many previous studies have concentrated on the interactions of radiocesium and radiostrontium with various environmental components, but there are currently no operative models for their transport over large spatial areas. We collected time-series measurements of 90Sr and 137Cs in 25 major European and Asian rivers and (using digital data sets with global coverage) determined characteristics of each of the rivers' catchments. This work has established, for the first time, a quantitative link between riverine transport of these radioisotopes and catchment and soil characteristics at a global scale. A generalized predictive model accounting for time changes in river concentrations and variation in catchment characteristics is developed. This can be used to predict the long-term riverine transport of these radiologically important radionuclides following any large-scale nuclear incident in North America, Europe, or (European and Asian) Russia.
|Journal||Environmental Science & Technology|
|Publication status||Published - 1 Feb 2004|