Interception, retention and translocation under greenhouse conditions of radiocaesium and radiostrontium from a simulated accidental source

C. M. Vandecasteele, S. Baker, H. Förstel, M. Muzinsky, R. Millan, C. Madoz-Escande, J. Tormos, T. Sauras, E. Schulte, C. Colle

Research outputpeer-review


The behaviour of radioactive aerosols released from a severely damaged nuclear reactor and deposited on cereals was simulated under controlled conditions. 137Cs and 90Sr - labelled aerosols were generated by volatilisation at high temperature of an artificially spiked pellet of depleted UO2. After cooling and maturation the aerosols were allowed to deposit on spring wheat (Triticum aestivum L. var. Arbon) cultures grown on lysimeters under greenhouse conditions. At the time of contamination the wheat plants were at different stages of development, from early vegetative growth (two leaves) until nearly mature (end of flowering). The estimated interception coefficient (µ) amounted to 13.1 m2kg-1; such a high value may be explained by the experimental conditions that created an over-saturated atmosphere during the contamination process and wet leaf surfaces. The first simulated rain, applied 6 days after the contamination removed four times more 137Cs (54 % +/- 12 of the intercepted radionuclides) than 90Sr (15% +/- 20) from the aerial parts. At arvest approximately 2 % of the Sr and less than 1 % of the Cs initially intercepted by the aerial parts is recovered for plants contaminated during the early development stages. A significantly higher proportion of the intercepted activity is still present for plants contaminated in the late development stages. The translocation to grains (TLF) increases when deposit occurs closer to the mature stage of the plant. The initial decrease of TLF values that we observed for strontium contamination in the earliest development stages is most probably due to the contribution of root uptake. Ploughing and re-sowing after the first rain, applied as a countermeasure reduced the 137 Cs content in leaves and stems at harvest approximately 3 times but had no effect on the 90Sr content in vegetative organs. It reduced the 137Cs contamination level in edible parts (grain) by a factor of 2 compared to the unploughed control, but doubled the 90Sr content.
Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Science of the Total Environment
StatePublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes

Cite this