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Distribution of long lived radionuclides in an abandoned reactor cooling reservoir


, : Distribution of long lived radionuclides in an abandoned reactor cooling reservoir. Ecological Monographs 60(4): 471-496

The distribution of 137Cs, 90Sr, 238Pu, 239,240Pu, 241Am, and 244Cm was studied in the biotic and abiotic components of an abandoned rector cooling impoundment, Pond B. The impoundment is located at the United States Department of Energy's Savannah River Plant in South Carolina, USA. It received radioactive contaminants via cooling water discharges from R Reactor from September 1961 to June 1964. The radionuclide inventories were estimated in water, Seston, sediments, and biotic components after 20 yr of equilibration. Chemical, physical, and biological relationships to the radionuclide distribution patterns were investigated. Biotic components contained some of the highest radionuclide concentration ratios observed to date. However, most of the radioactivity resides in sediments. The principal mechanisms of loss from the system are radioactive decay and periodic outflow of water and suspended materials; biotic export and seepage appear to be inconsequential. Strontium-90 was much more mobile in the system than the other radionuclides. Aquatic macrophytes dominated the biotic component radionuclide inventories and their dynamics exert a strong influence on the spatial distribution and turnover of radioactivity in the ecosystem. Pond B supports a diverse and productive flora and fauna. Cleanup of the system is not indicated. Use of Pond B for recreation is feasible with adequate attention to monitoring and radiological health guidelines.

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