Chapter 18

Radioactive Aerosols: Tracers of Atmospheric Processes

Katsumi Hirose

Department of Materials and Life Sciences, Faculty of Science and Technology, Sophia University, Japan

18.1 Introduction

Radionuclides emitted in the atmosphere, which have gaseous forms and contain fine particles, turn into radioactive aerosols through gas–particle conversion and coagulation. The interaction of these radioactive aerosols with the environment has been studied in terms of radiological effects and atmospheric tracers (Chamberlain, 1991; Papastefanou, 2008). Human activities have an effect on the atmospheric environment via the increasing emission of anthropogenic pollutants, including natural and anthropogenic radionuclides. Public interest in radioactive aerosols began in the mid 1950s, when global fallout of fission products from nuclear weapons tests was first observed. The thermonuclear tests at Bikini Atoll (Bravo Test) in 1954 had radiological effects on human health in the form of fallout of radioactive ash. Nuclear reactor accidents such as Windscale, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima have caused the atmospheric emission of large amounts of radioactive aerosols. Natural radionuclides, typically radon and its decay products, also pose a potential hazard to human health, via their exposure to uranium and other mines. In order to assess the radiological effects of anthropogenic and natural radionuclides, it is important to elucidate the environmental behaviors of radioactive ...

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