Research Article: Modelling the effective dose to a population from fallout after a nuclear power plant accident—A scenario-based study with mitigating actions

Date Published: April 9, 2019

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Mats Isaksson, Martin Tondel, Robert Wålinder, Christopher Rääf, Jed N. Lampe.


The radiological consequences of a nuclear power plant (NPP) accident, resulting in the release of radionuclides to the environment, will depend largely on the mitigating actions instigated shortly after the accident. It is therefore important to make predictions of the radiation dose to the affected population, from external as well as internal exposure, soon after an accident, despite the fact that data are scarce. The aim of this study was to develop a model for the prediction of the cumulative effective dose up to 84 years of age based on the ground deposition of 137Cs that is determined soon after fallout. The model accounts for different assumptions regarding external and internal dose contributions, and the model parameters in this study were chosen to reflect various mitigating actions. Furthermore, the relative importance of these parameters was determined by sensitivity analysis. To the best of our knowledge, this model is unique as it allows quantification of both the external and the internal effective dose using only a fallout map of 137Cs after a nuclear power plant accident. The cumulative effective dose over a period of 50 years following the accident per unit 137Cs deposited was found to range from 0.14 mSv/kBq m-2 to 1.5 mSv/kBq m-2, depending on the mitigating actions undertaken. According to the sensitivity analysis, the most important parameters governing the cumulative effective dose to various adult populations during 50 years after the fallout appear to be: the correlation factor between the local areal deposition of 137Cs and the maximum initial ambient dose rate; the maximum transfer from regional average fallout on the ground to body burden; the local areal deposition of 137Cs; and the regional average 137Cs deposition. Therefore, it is important that mapping of local 137Cs deposition is carried out immediately after fallout from a nuclear power plant accident, followed by calculations of radiation doses for different scenarios using well-known parameters, in order to identify the most efficient mitigation strategies. Given this 137Cs mapping, we believe our model is a valuable tool for long-term radiological assessment in the early phase after NPP accidents.

Partial Text

The consequences of the release of radionuclides to the environment following a nuclear power plant (NPP) accident will depend to a high degree on the steps taken to mitigate the effects shortly after the accident. Appropriate mitigating actions should thus be planned in advance by the relevant authorities in order to limit the consequences for both the individuals affected and society as a whole [1]. It is therefore important to make predictions of the radiation dose to the affected population over the long term, from both external and internal exposure, soon after an accident, even when few data are available. Estimates of the projected dose following various mitigating scenarios should therefore be made in advance; this was one of the main reasons for this study. The other was to develop a simple, yet comprehensive, relationship between the projected long-term radiation dose and a ground deposition parameter that can be determined relatively early after an accident by means of mobile measurements, e.g. airborne gamma surveys.

To the best of our knowledge, this study is the first attempt to develop a model in which both the external and internal exposure pathways are implicitly linked to a fallout map of 137Cs after a NPP accident. Our model also shows that the long-term total effective dose, expressed as CED(50), including both internal and external dose contributions, per unit 137Cs deposition, ranges from 0.14 mSv/kBq m-2 (scenarios with food restrictions and low transfer, respectively) to 1.5 mSv/kBq m-2 (scenario with highly variable deposition). This is consistent with estimates of the external cumulative exposure in terms of air kerma over 30 years, which have been reported to be 970 and 570 mGy for an initial areal 137Cs deposition of 1 MBq m-2 following the Chernobyl and Fukushima Daiichi NPP accidents, respectively [30]. Given a scenario with a transfer corresponding to standard Scandinavian conditions, our model predicts that an initial areal 137Cs deposition of about 450 kBq/m-2 will result in a lifetime effective dose exceeding 100 mSv.