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Mechanisms of enrichment of natural radioactivity along the beaches of the Camargue, France

Journal title : Journal of Environmental Radioactivity
Volume : 91
Issue : 3
Pagination : 146-159
Publication date : 16/10/2006


A field study was carried out along the Golfe du Lion, that focussed on the beaches of the Camargue, to locate the main areas where enriched U and Th are found, and to better understand the processes that concentrate radioactivity on beaches. Indeed enriched areas are observed on some Camargue beaches, where high-dose rates are recorded due to excess U and Th activity (>1000 Bq kg−1). The coastline was mapped by means of an aerial gamma survey and the results indicated that the main actinides deposits occurred in the Camargue area. This concentrating effect is possibly due to a greater sedimentary contribution from the River Rhone relative to other minor Mediterranean rivers. Across the along-shore profile, the variability in actinides observed at the eastern part of Beauduc spit is mainly explained by variations in heavy and light mineral contents. Such variability can be accounted for by redistribution of the sand caused by erosion/deposition processes occurring in the eastern part of the spit. Further parameters such as grain size and heavy minerals content were studied in connection with the distribution of U, Th and 40K in the field at a more localised level (i.e. across-shore beach profile). The <200-μm fraction contains more than 50% of the radioactivity and heavy minerals (especially zircon) are the main contributors to the high levels of external radiation. Therefore the enriched areas, where U and Th exceed 1000 Bq kg−1, presumably result from the sorting of sand grains according to their size and density.


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