Modelling and mitigating dose to firefighters from inhalation of radionuclides in wildland fire smoke

Brian J. Viner, Tim Jannik, Daniel Stone, Allan Hepworth, Luke Naeher, Olorunfemi Adetona, John Blake, Teresa Eddy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Firefighters responding to wildland fires where surface litter and vegetation contain radiological contamination will receive a radiological dose by inhaling resuspended radioactive material in the smoke. This may increase their lifetime risk of contracting certain types of cancer. Using published data, we modelled hypothetical radionuclide emissions, dispersion and dose for 70th and 97th percentile environmental conditions and for average and high fuel loads at the Savannah River Site. We predicted downwind concentration and potential dose to firefighters for radionuclides of interest (137Cs, 238Pu, 90Sr and 210Po). Predicted concentrations exceeded dose guidelines in the base case scenario emissions of 1.0×107Bqha-1 for 238Pu at 70th percentile environmental conditions and average fuel load levels for both 4-and 14-h shifts. Under 97th percentile environmental conditions and high fuel loads, dose guidelines were exceeded for several reported cases for 90Sr, 238Pu and 210Po. The potential for exceeding dose guidelines was mitigated by including plume rise (>2ms-1) or moving a small distance from the fire owing to large concentration gradients near the edge of the fire. This approach can quickly estimate potential dose from airborne radionuclides in wildland fire and assist decision-making to reduce firefighter exposure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)723-733
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Wildland Fire
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • atmospheric dispersion
  • radioactive dose
  • radioecology.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Ecology


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