Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 26, Issue 3, pp 2328–2344 | Cite as

Sources and distribution of 241Am in the vicinity of a deep geologic repository

  • Punam ThakurEmail author
  • Anderson L. Ward
Research Article


The detection, distribution, and long-term behavior of 241Am in the terrestrial environment at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) site were assessed using historical data from an independent monitoring program conducted by the Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring & Research Center (CEMRC), and its predecessor organization the Environmental Evaluation Group (EEG). An analysis of historical data indicates frequent detections of trace levels of 241Am in the WIPP environment. Positive detections and peaks in 241Am concentrations in ambient air samples generally occur during the March to June timeframe, which is when strong and gusty winds in the area frequently give rise to blowing dust. A study of long-term measurements of 241Am in the WIPP environment suggest that the resuspension of previously contaminated soils is likely the primary source of americium in the ambient air samples from WIPP and its vicinity. Furthermore, the 241Am/239 + 240Pu ratio in aerosols and soils was reasonably consistent from year to year and was in agreement with the global fallout ratios. Higher than normal activity concentrations of 241Am and 241Am/239 + 240Pu ratios were measured in aerosol samples during 2014 as a result of February 14, 2014 radiation release event from the WIPP underground. However, after a brief spike, the activity concentrations of 241Am have returned to the normal background levels. The long-term monitoring data suggest there is no persistent contamination and no lasting increase in radiological contaminants in the region that can be considered significant by any health-based standard.


Americium WIPP site Aerosol Resuspension Soil Depth distribution 



This research is supported by grant from US Department of Energy, Carlsbad Field Office of DOE through Grant No. DE-EM 0002423. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the sponsors.


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© This is a U.S. government work and not under copyright protection in the U.S.; foreign copyright protection may apply 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring & Research CenterCarlsbadUSA
  2. 2.U.S. Department of Energy, Carlsbad Field OfficeCarlsbadUSA

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