Effective Half-Life of Caesium-137 in Various Environmental Media at the Savannah River Site

M. H. Paller, G. T. Jannik, R. A. Baker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


During the operational history of the Savannah River Site (SRS), many different radionuclides have been released from site facilities into the SRS environment. However, only a relatively small number of pathways, most importantly 137Cs in fish and deer, have contributed significantly to doses and risks to the public. The "effective" half-lives (Te) of 137Cs (which include both physical decay and environmental dispersion) in Savannah River floodplain soil and vegetation and in fish and white-tailed deer from the SRS were estimated using long-term monitoring data. For 1974-2011, the Tes of 137Cs in Savannah River floodplain soil and vegetation were 17.0 years (95% CI=14.2-19.9) and 13.4 years (95% CI=10.8-16.0), respectively. These Tes were greater than in a previous study that used data collected only through 2005 as a likely result of changes in the flood regime of the Savannah River. Field analyses of 137Cs concentrations in deer collected during yearly controlled hunts at the SRS indicated an overall Te of 15.9 years (95% CI=12.3-19.6) for 1965-2011; however, the Te for 1990-2011 was significantly shorter (11.8 years, 95% CI=4.8-18.8) due to an increase in the rate of 137Cs removal. The shortest Tes were for fish in SRS streams and the Savannah River (3.5-9.0 years), where dilution and dispersal resulted in rapid 137Cs removal. Long-term data show that Tes are significantly shorter than the physical half-life of 137Cs in the SRS environment but that they can change over time. Therefore, it is desirable have a long period of record for calculating Tes and risky to extrapolate Tes beyond this period unless the processes governing 137Cs removal are clearly understood.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)81-88
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Environmental Radioactivity
StatePublished - May 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Cesium
  • Ecological half-life
  • Effective half-life
  • Long-term change
  • Savannah river site

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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