Radionuclide resuspension across ecosystems and environmental disturbances

Jeffrey J. Whicker, David D. Breshears, Michael McNaughton, Mary Jo Chastenet de Gery, Christine Bullock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Exposure assessment from radionuclides and other soil-bound contaminants often requires quantifying the amount of contaminant resuspended in the air. Rates and controlling factors of radionuclide resuspension and wind erosion of soil are clearly related but have largely been studied separately. Here, we review both and then integrate wind erosion measurements with the radiological resuspension paradigm to provide better estimates of resuspension factors across a broad range of ecosystems and environmental conditions. Radionuclide resuspension by wind was initially investigated during the era of aboveground nuclear weapons testing. Predictive dose models were developed from empirically-derived ratios of air and soil concentrations, otherwise called the resuspension factor. Resuspension factors were shown to generally predict radionuclide concentrations in air, but they were site-specific and largely derived from the arid and semi-arid environments surrounding nuclear weapons testing locations. In contrast, wind erosion studies from the agricultural and environmental sciences have produced more mechanistic models and a relatively robust data set of wind erosion rates and model parameters across a range of ecosystems. We sequentially show the mathematics linking measured sediment flux from wind erosion rate measurements to resuspension factors using the concept of transport capacity and its relationship to the deposition velocity. We also describe the conceptual framework describing how resuspension factors change through time and the mathematical models describing this decrease. We then show how vertical mass flux measurements across ecosystems were categorized and used to calculate ecosystem-based resuspension factors. These calculations allow generalized estimation of radionuclide resuspension factors across ecosystem types as a function of disturbance and as input for dose calculations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number106586
JournalJournal of Environmental Radioactivity
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • Atmospheric dispersion
  • Environmental disturbance
  • Public dose assessment
  • Radionuclide resuspension
  • Wind erosion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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