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Case Western Reserve University researchers track Chernobyl fallout
Date:10/1/2008

CLEVELAND - When a reactor in the Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded in 1986 in what was then the Soviet republic of Ukraine, radioactive elements were released in the air and dispersed over the Soviet Union, Europe and even eastern portions of North America.

More than 20 years later, researchers from Case Western Reserve University traveled to Sweden and Poland to gain insight into the downward migration of Chernobyl-derived radionuclides in the soil. Among the team's findings was the fact that much more plutonium was found in the Swedish soil at a depth that corresponded with the nuclear explosion than that of Poland.

Radionuclides occur in soil both from natural processes and as fallout from nuclear testing.

Gerald Matisoff, chair of the department of geological sciences at Case Western Reserve University, Lauren Vitko, field assistant from Case Western Reserve, and others took soil samples in various locations in the two countries, measuring the presence and location of cesium (137Cs), plutonium (239, 240Pu), and lead (210Pbxs).

Matisoff will present his findings on Monday, October 6, at the 2008 Joint Meeting of the Geological Society of America, Soil Science Society of America, American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies in Houston.

By looking at the magnitude of the radioactive fallout, how fast it moved down into the soil profile and how quickly it eroded and is transported by sediment, Matisoff's research helps shed light on two fronts.

The first is dealing with the public health ramifications, studying such issues as food chain transfer, exposure and cleanup as well as understanding the geologic aftereffects. These issues include measuring erosion rates, how long the radionuclides are retained in the watershed, the source of sediment found in rivers as well as compiling radioactive inventories.

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Contact: Susan Griffith
susan.griffith@case.edu
216-368-1004
Case Western Reserve University
Source:Eurekalert

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