Predicted cumulative dose to firefighters and the offsite public from natural and anthropogenic radionuclides in smoke from wildland fires at the Savannah River Site, South Carolina USA

Brian J. Viner, Tim Jannik, Allan Hepworth, Olorunfemi Adetona, Luke Naeher, Teresa Eddy, Eric Doman, John Blake

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

The contaminated ground surface at Savannah River Site (SRS) is a result of the decades of work that has been performed maintaining the country's nuclear stockpile and performing research and development on nuclear materials. The volatilization of radionuclides during wildfire results in airborne particles that are dispersed within the smoke plume and may result in doses to downwind firefighters and the public. To better understand the risk that these smoke plumes present, we have characterized four regions at SRS in terms of their fuel characteristics and radiological contamination on the ground. Combined with general meteorological conditions describing typical and extreme burn conditions, we have simulated potential fires in these regions and predicted the potential radiological dose that could be received by firefighting personnel and the public surrounding the SRS. In all cases, the predicted cumulative dose was a small percent of the US Department of Energy regulatory limit (0.25 mSv). These predictions were conservative and assumed that firefighters would be exposed for the duration of their shift and the public would be exposed for the entire day over the duration of the burn. Realistically, firefighters routinely rotate off the firefront during their shift and the public would likely remain indoors much of the day. However, we show that even under worst-case conditions the regulatory limits are not exceeded. We can infer that the risks associated with wildfires would not be expected to cause cumulative doses above the level of concern to either responding personnel or the offsite public.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Environmental Radioactivity
Volume182
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2018
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Atmospheric dispersion
  • Radioactive dose
  • Radioecology
  • Wildfire

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis

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