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Long-term flux of Chernobyl-derived 137Cs from soil to French rivers: a study on sediment and biological indicators.

F. Vray, C. Debayle, D. Louvat Journal of Environmental Radioactivity 68 (2003) 93-114

Summary

Sediment and aquatic plants were collected annually since the early 1990s in the main French rivers, upstream of nuclear power plants. These time series were used in order to assess the parameters of a compartmental model describing the Chernobyl-derived 137Cs flux from soil to rivers. In order to reduce the dispersal of 137Cs measured activities in sediment samples due to the granulometric heterogeneity, a correction method was set up using sediment test-fractions artificially enriched with specific diameter particles. The method was based on 137Cs affinity for fine particles, especially clays, and thus clay and fine silt contents of each sample was analysed. Corrected sediment data showed (1) that the method efficiently reduced the variability; and (2) that 137Cs activities in French rivers decreased with a half-life of 4 to 6 years since 1987 (after correction by radioactive decay). A similar half-life value was obtained for aquatic plants pointing out that this half-life is related to the gradual decay of the flux from soil to rivers, not to the indicator itself. Comparing our results with similar ones published by other authors, it appeared possible that this kinetic varies with the time period over which the study is conducted, the longer the period the lower is the kinetic.

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