United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

Soil and Groundwater Sample Characterization and Agricultural Practices for Assessing Food Chain Pathways in Biosphere Models (NUREG/CR-6881, PNNL-15244)

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Publication Information

Manuscript Completed: July 2005
Date Published: August 2005

Prepared by:
B.A. Napier, K.M. Krupka, M.M. Valenta, T.J. Gilmore
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Richland, Washington 99352

P.R. Reed, NRC Project Manager

Prepared for:
Division of Systems Analysis and Regulatory Effectiveness
Office of Nuclear Regulatory Research
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Washington, DC 20555-0001

NRC Job Code Y6469

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Abstract

This report describes work performed and summarizes observations to date on the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s project Assessment of Food Chain Pathway Parameters in Biosphere Models, which was established to assess and evaluate a number of key parameters used in the food-chain models used in performance assessments of radioactive waste disposal facilities. Section 2 of this report describes activities undertaken to collect samples of soils and groundwater from three geographical regions of the United States, the Southeast, Northwest, and Southwest, and perform analyses to characterize their physical and chemical properties. Because the uptake and behavior of radionuclides in plant roots, plant leaves, and animal products depends on the chemistry of the water and soil coming in contact with plants and animals, water and soil samples collected from these regions on the United States are being used in ongoing experiments at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to determine radionuclide soil-to-plant concentration ratios, leaf interception and translocation factors. Crops and forage used in the experiments are grown in the soils, and long-lived radionuclides introduced into the groundwater provide the contaminated water used to water the grown plants. The radionuclide uptake results from this research study are expected to show how regional variations in water quality and soil chemistry affect radionuclide uptake. Section 3 summarizes information gathered regarding agricultural practices and common and unusual crops grown in each of these three areas. This type of information is directly useful in formulating inputs to radioecological and food-chain models used in performance assessments and other kinds of environmental assessment. This food-chain pathway data may be used by the NRC staff to assess dose to persons in the reference biosphere (e.g., persons who live and work in an area potentially affected by radionuclide releases) of waste disposal facilities and decommissioning sites.

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