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Fluvial transport and redistribution of Chernobyl fallout radionuclides.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

  • D. E. Walling
  • T. A. Quine
  • J. S. Rowan
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1992
Issue number1
Number of pages16
Pages (from-to)231-246
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Fallout of Chernobyl-derived radionuclides over the UK evidenced marked spatial variation. Relatively high levels were recorded in central Wales, but they declined rapidly to the east and southeast. As a result, the headwaters of the River Severn received substantial inputs of fallout, whereas only low levels were recorded over the middle and lower reaches of its drainage basin. This situation afforded a valuable opportunity to investigate the sediment-associated transport of Chernobyl-derived radiocaesium through the 10 000 km2 drainage basin and its redistribution by fluvial processes. Information on the fallout inputs of radiocaesium has been obtained from the sampling of soil inventories across the basin. Measurements of the radiocaesium content of suspended sediment have been made at several sites on the main river over a period extending from before the Chernobyl disaster through to 1988. Concentrations of caesium-137 in the suspended sediment increased by two orders of magnitude immediately after the accident up to 1450 mBq g –1, declined rapidly subsequently, but remained almost an order of magnitude greater than the pre-Chernobyl levels throughout the remainder of the period (1986–1988). Downstream redistribution of radiocaesium has occurred as a result of deposition of sediment-associated radiocaesium in channel and floodplain sinks. It is estimated that 0.6% of the total fallout input of Chernobyl-derived caesium-134 has been transported out of the basin during the period 1986–1990. Estimates of channel and floodplain storage of sediment-associated caesium-134 at the time of sampling in 1988 and 1989 account for 0.01% and 0.2% of the total fallout input to the basin respectively.