Plant Accumulation of Natural Radionuclides as Affected by Substrate Contaminated with Uranium-Mill Tailings
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Environmental concern due to plant accumulation of natural radionuclides is a major concern in uranium mining areas. To evaluate the risk associated with the transfer of radionuclides to edible plants, the uptake of 238U, 226Ra, and 210Pb by Chinese cabbage (Brassica rapa L. subsp. pekinensis (Lour.) Hanelt) grown in soils contaminated with uranium-mill tailings (UMT) was investigated. Test plants were grown under controlled conditions in substrate composed of soil and UMT in different ratios. Activity concentrations of 238U, 226Ra, and 210Pb in substrate, leaves, and roots were measured and the concentration ratios determined. Soil characteristics were determined, since they directly affect bioavailability of radionuclides. Concentration ratios of 238U, 226Ra, and 210Pb in leaves varied from 0.001 to 0.006, 0.024 to 0.172, and 0.004 to 0.011, respectively, and in roots from 0.020 to 0.126, 0.015 to 0.241, and 0.033 to 1.460, respectively. Concentrations of 238U, 226Ra, and 210Pb in leaves and roots were found to correlate with the amount of 238U, 226Ra, and 210Pb in the substrate. A higher amount of 226Ra accumulated in aboveground parts (57–877 Bq kg−1 d. m. for leaves) compared to 238U (0.6–4.7 Bq kg−1 d. m. for leaves) and 210Pb (8–53 Bq kg−1 d. m. for leaves), which were mainly stored in the roots. The relationships between the amount of radionuclides in plants and soil characteristics and their role in radionuclide uptake are discussed and critically evaluated.
KeywordsBrassica plants Concentration ratio Natural radionuclides Plant accumulation Substrate Mine tailings
The authors would like to thank the staff of the Rudnik Žirovski vrh company for their cooperation and assistance. The authors also thank Dr. David Heath for his help in reviewing the paper. The support of Dr. Vaupotič for the 222Rn measurements is highly appreciated. The Department of Environmental Sciences of the “Jožef Stefan Institute” is also acknowledged for the management, technical, and analytical support of the study.
The Slovenian Research Agency is acknowledged for its financial support (contract No. P2-0075).
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