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This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 34 No. 6, p. 1972-1979
     
    Received: Nov 5, 2004


    * Corresponding author(s): tiziana.centofanti@googlemail.com
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doi:10.2134/jeq2004.0412

Is the Transfer Factor a Relevant Tool to Assess the Soil-to-Plant Transfer of Radionuclides under Field Conditions?

  1. T. Centofanti *a,
  2. R. Penfieldb,
  3. A. Albrechtac,
  4. S. Pellerind,
  5. H. Flühlerb and
  6. E. Frossarda
  1. a Plant Nutrition, Institute of Plant Sciences, ETH Zurich, Eschikon 33, CH-8315 Lindau (ZH), Switzerland
    b Soil Physics, Institute of Terrestrial Ecology, ETH Zurich, Grabenstrasse 11a, CH-8952 Schlieren, Switzerland
    c ANDRA Direction Scientifique, Service Transferts, Parc de la Croix Blanche 1/7, rue Jean-Monnet, F-92298 Chatenay-Malabry Cedex, France
    d Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique, UMR Transfert sol-plante et cycle des éléments minéraux dans les écosystèmes cultivés, BP 81, F-33883 Villenave-d'Ornon Cedex, France

Abstract

The radiological impact of radionuclides released to the terrestrial environment is usually predicted with mathematical models in which the transfer of radionuclides from soil to the plant is described with the transfer factor (TF). This paper questions the validity of the protocols proposed by the International Atomic Energy Agency to measure TF in the field and in greenhouses conditions. We grew maize (Zea mays L.) both in the field after a surface application of radionuclides (54Mn, 57Co, 65Zn, and 134Cs) and in a greenhouse with the same soil that has received the same fertilization and that had been previously sieved and homogeneously labeled with the same radionuclides before being repacked in pots. The analysis of the displacement of radionuclides in the field soil profile showed a higher concentration of the surface-applied radionuclides in the preferential flow path (PFP) in comparison to the soil matrix indicating that they infiltrated heterogeneously in the soil profile due to the structure-induced non-uniform water flow. A significantly higher recovery of 57Co and 134Cs was observed in the plants grown in the field soil, whereas no differences in the recovery of 54Mn and 65Zn between the two experiments were detected. These results suggest that (i) under field conditions the soil-to-plant transfer of radionuclides that co-exist as stable elements present at low concentrations in the soil and in the plant is higher than that measured under greenhouse conditions and (ii) the implicit assumption made when calculating the TF (that radionuclides are homogeneously distributed in the soil profile) is not valid, thereby preventing the calculation of an average concentration to obtain the TF parameter.

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