Changes in 137Cs concentrations in soil and vegetation on the floodplain of the Savannah River over a 30 year period

M. H. Paller, G. T. Jannik, P. D. Fledderman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


137Cs released during 1954-1974 from nuclear production reactors on the Savannah River Site, a US Department of Energy nuclear materials production site in South Carolina, contaminated a portion of the Savannah River floodplain known as Creek Plantation. 137Cs activity concentrations have been measured in Creek Plantation since 1974 making it possible to calculate effective half-lives for 137Cs in soil and vegetation and assess the spatial distribution of contaminants on the floodplain. Activity concentrations in soil and vegetation were higher near the center of the floodplain than near the edges as a result of frequent inundation coupled with the presence of low areas that trapped contaminated sediments. 137Cs activity was highest near the soil surface, but depth related differences diminished with time as a likely result of downward diffusion or leaching. Activity concentrations in vegetation were significantly related to concentrations in soil. The plant to soil concentration ratio (dry weight) averaged 0.49 and exhibited a slight but significant tendency to decrease with time. The effective half-lives for 137Cs in shallow (0-7.6 cm) soil and in vegetation were 14.9 (95% CI = 12.5-17.3) years and 11.6 (95% CI = 9.1-14.1) years, respectively, and rates of 137Cs removal from shallow soil and vegetation did not differ significantly among sampling locations. Potential health risks on the Creek Plantation floodplain have declined more rapidly than expected on the basis of radioactive decay alone because of the relatively short effective half-life of 137Cs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1302-1310
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Environmental Radioactivity
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2008


  • Cesium
  • Contaminated soil
  • Contaminated vegetation
  • Ecological half-life
  • Effective half-life
  • Floodplain
  • Long-term change
  • Savannah River
  • Savannah River Site

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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