The University of Arizona

Intercomparison of Models of 14C in the Biosphere for Solid Radioactive Waste Disposal

Shelly Mobbs, George Shaw, Simon Norris, Laura Marang, Trevor Sumerling, Achim Albrecht, Shulan Xu, Mike Thorne, Laura Limer, Karen Smith, Graham Smith

Abstract


Radiocarbon is present in solid radioactive wastes arising from the nuclear power industry, in reactor operating wastes, and in graphite and activated metals that will arise from reactor decommissioning. Its half-life of 5730 yr, among other factors, means that 14C may be released to the biosphere from radioactive waste repositories. These releases may occur as 14C-bearing gases, especially methane, or as aqueous species, and enter the biosphere from below via natural processes or via groundwater pumped from wells. Assessment of radiation doses to humans due to such releases must take account of the major role of carbon in biological processes, requiring specific 14C assessment models to be developed. Therefore, an intercomparison of 5 14C assessment models was organized by the international collaborative forum, BIOPROTA. The intercomparison identified significantly different results for the activity concentrations in the soil, atmosphere, and plant compartments, based upon the different modeling approaches. The major source of uncertainty was related to the identification of conditions under which mixing occurs and isotopic equilibrium is established. Furthermore, while the assumed release area plays a role in determining the calculated atmospheric 14C concentrations, the openness of the plant canopy and the wind profile in and above the canopy are the key drivers. The intercomparison has aided understanding of the processes involved and helped to identify areas where further research is required to address some of the uncertainties.

DOI: 10.2458/azu_js_rc.55.16223


Keywords


C 14; carbon; methods

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