Levels of tritium in soils and vegetation near Canadian nuclear facilities releasing tritium to the atmosphere: implications for environmental models

P.A. Thompson, N.-O.A. Kwamena, M. Ilin, M. Wilk, I.D. Clark
2015 Journal of Environmental Radioactivity  
Concentrations of organically bound tritium (OBT) and tritiated water (HTO) were measured over two growing seasons in vegetation and soil samples obtained in the vicinity of four nuclear facilities and two background locations in Canada. At the background locations, with few exceptions, OBT concentrations were higher than HTO concentrations: OBT/HTO ratios in vegetation varied between 0.3 and 20 and values in soil varied between 2.7 and 15. In the vicinity of the four nuclear facilities OBT/HTO
more » ... facilities OBT/HTO ratios in vegetation and soils deviated from the expected mean value of 0.7, which is used as a default value in environmental transfer models. Ratios of the OBT activity concentration in plants ([OBT] plant ) to the OBT activity concentration in soils ([OBT] soil ) appear to be a good indicator of the long-term behaviour of tritium in soil and vegetation. In general, OBT activity concentrations in soils were nearly equal to OBT activity concentrations in plants in the vicinity of the two nuclear power plants. [OBT] plant /[OBT] soil ratios considerably below unity observed at one nuclear processing facility represents historically higher levels of tritium in the environment. The results of our study reflect the dynamic nature of HTO retention and OBT formation in vegetation and soil during the growing season. Our data support the mounting evidence suggesting that some parameters used in environmental transfer models approved for regulatory assessments should be revisited to better account for the behavior of HTO and OBT in the environment and to ensure that modelled estimates (e.g., plant OBT) are appropriately conservative. Crown
doi:10.1016/j.jenvrad.2014.11.009 pmid:25461522 fatcat:cqvowpllhfbuffxpvvxdx2a2aq