The uptake by vegetation of Chernobyl and aged radiocaesium in upland West Cumbria

Beresford, N.A.; Howard, B.J.; Barnett, C.L. ORCID:; Crout, N.M.J.. 1992 The uptake by vegetation of Chernobyl and aged radiocaesium in upland West Cumbria. Journal of Environmental Radioactivity, 16 (2). 181-195.

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The uptake into vegetation of radiocaesium originating from the Chernobyl accident and from previous sources was compared at two upland sites in west Cumbria during November/December 1989. Both sites were in an area where restrictions are in place on the movement and slaughter of sheep due to high radiocaesium activities, and were known to have received comparatively high levels of deposition from both the 1957 Windscale accident and weapons fallout. The proportion of Chernobyl derived radiocaesium in the total radiocaesium inventory at each site was estimated using a 134Cs:137Cs ratio of 0–53 in Chernobyl fallout. Aged radiocaesium, mostly present for over 20 years, accounted for 59 ± 2·3 and 44 ± 2·8% (mean ± SE) of the 137Cs deposit at the two sites. Initially, after the Chernobyl accident, the transfer of the recently deposited radiocaesium was reported to be greater than that of aged deposits. However, four years after the accident, the extent of transfer of Chernobyl radiocaesium from the top 4 cm of soil to vegetation is now similar to that of the aged radiocaesium. The similarity in behaviour of Chernobyl derived and aged radiocaesium suggests that future reductions in radiocaesium levels in vegetation, and therefore in sheep, will be slow. The total deposit, measured per square metre down to bedrock or 40 cm. of aged radiocaesium was less available for plant uptake than that from Chernobyl. This is because a greater proportion of the earlier deposit has migrated further down the soil profile. The movement of Chernobyl radiocaesium down the soil profile and its radioactive decay will be the two major factors which contribute to its decline in vegetation and hence sheep.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Programmes: CEH Programmes pre-2009 publications > Other
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: _ Pre-2000 sections
ISSN: 0265-931X
Additional Keywords: radioecology
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 13 Jun 2012 08:51 +0 (UTC)

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