Derivation of irrigation requirements for radiological impact assessments

    Research outputpeer-review


    When assessing the radiological impacts of radioactive waste disposal, irrigation using groundwater contaminated with releases from the disposal system is a principal means of crop and soil contamination. In spite of their importance for radiological impact assessments, irrigation data are scarce and often associated with considerable uncertainty for several reasons including limited obligation to measure groundwater abstraction and differences in measuring methodologies. Further uncertainty arises from environmental (e.g. climate and landscape) change likely to occur during the assessment long time frame. In this paper, we derive irrigation data using the crop growth AquaCrop model relevant to a range of climates, soils and crops for use in radiological impact assessments. The AquaCrop estimates were compared with actual irrigation data reported in the literature and with estimates obtained from simple empirical methods proposed for use in radiological impact assessments. Further, the AquaCrop irrigation data were analysed using mixed effects modelling to investigate the effects of climate, soil and crop type on the irrigation requirement. Irrigation estimates from all models were within a reasonable range of the measured values. The AquaCrop estimates, however, were at the higher end of the range and higher than those from the empirical methods. Nevertheless, they may be more appropriate for conservative radiological assessments. The use of mixed effects modelling allowed for the characterisation of crop-specific variability in the irrigation data, and in contrast to the empirical methods, the AquaCrop and the mixed effects models accounted for the soil effect on the irrigation requirement. The approach presented in this paper is relevant for obtaining irrigation data for a specific site under different climatic conditions as well as for generic dose assessments. To the best of our knowledge, this is one of the most comprehensive analyses of irrigation data in the context of radiological impact assessment currently available.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)91-103
    JournalJournal of environmental radioactivity
    StatePublished - 1 Nov 2016

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