Detection and tracing of the medical radioisotope 131I in the Canberra environment
School of Physical, Environmental and Mathematical Sciences, The University of New South Wales in Canberra, Australian Defence Force Academy, ACT 2602, Australia
The transport and radioecology of the therapeutical radioisotope 131I has been studied in Canberra, Australia. The isotope has been detected in water samples and its activity quantified via characteristic J-ray photo peaks. A comparison of measurements on samples from upstream and downstream of the Canberra waste water treatment plant shows that 131I is discharged from the plant outflow into the local Molonglo river. This is consistent with observations in other urban environments. A time-correlation between the measured activities in the outflow and the therapeutical treatment cycle at the hospital identifies the medical treatment as the source of the isotope. Enhanced activity levels of 131I have been measured for fish samples. This may permit conclusions on 131I uptake by the biosphere. Due to the well-defined and intermittent input of 131I into the sewage, the Canberra situation is ideally suited for radioecological studies. Furthermore, the 131I activity may be applied in tracer studies of sewage transport to and through the treatment plant and as an indicator of outflow dilution following discharge to the environment.
© Owned by the authors, published by EDP Sciences, 2012