Assessment of radiation dose to people and wildife inhabiting the Grote Nete catchment in Belgium

Research outputpeer-review


We evaluate the impact of the radiological contamination of the Grote Nete catchment in Belgium to people and non-human biota. This region has received effluents from the phosphate and nuclear industries via tributaries of the Grote Nete river in past decades, resulting in the presence of radionuclides such as 241Am, 60Co, 137Cs, 40K, 210Pb, 238Pu, 239,240Pu, 226Ra, 228Ra, 228Th, 232Th, 234U, 235U and 238U. During the period 2016–2021, we measured these radionuclides in the water column, the bed sediment and riverbanks. Additionally, we carried out radon measurements on the riverbanks in 2022. Based on these measurements, the dose rates to people were calculated for different potential exposure scenarios, using the SCK CEN biosphere tool. We also performed an assessment of exposure of ionising radiation to non-human biota (including 222Rn and its daughters) using the ERICA Tool.
We observed three types of areas at the Grote Nete riverbank: (a) a lower category exposure with 226Ra concentrations reflecting purely Belgian background values; (b) a middle category with enhanced 226Ra, mainly adsorbed on clay minerals and (c) an upper category extending to maximum values in the order of 103 Bq kg−1. The main component of the dose rate for terrestrial and aquatic organisms is 226Ra followed by 210Pb (terrestrial) or 228Ra, (aquatic). The anthropogenic vector of the contamination (40K, 60Co, 90Sr, 137Cs, 228Th, 232Th, 234,235,238U, 238,239Pu, 241Am) makes a negligible contribution to dose. Overall, the Grote Nete wildlife is not under significant risk from exposure to soil or water-borne radionuclides and radon emanating from the soil, even if the ERICA benchmark of 10 μGy h−1 is occasionally exceeded for 226Ra, 210Pb or 228Ra, because exposures are below the levels at which effects are known to occur. For people, radon inhalation is the main exposure pathway and exposures can reach 1 mSv y−1 for hypothetical residents living at the riverbanks and remaining most of their time in the area, but it can be expected that exposures are much lower at increasing distances from the river. It is concluded that neither people nor the environment are at any significant radiological risk from this situation.
Original languageEnglish
Article number107395
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of environmental radioactivity
StatePublished - Mar 2024

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Environmental Chemistry

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