Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

David C. Medich, Advisor

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Charles A. Potter, Committee Member




Surface-bound particulates containing radionuclides in the environment can become airborne through the process of resuspension. Once airborne, these radionuclides can be inhaled or ingested to deliver an internal dose of ionizing radiation. To that end, the resuspension factor method is a powerful tool for predicting a person's exposure to airborne particles from surface contaminations, and therefore is used to determine protective and intervening measures. The resuspension factor is calculated as the ratio measured airborne to surface mass concentration and has been found to generally decrease exponentially with time. Current models of the resuspension factor are empirical and have failed to predict recent measurement, motivating a stronger basis and physical model for the system. Additionally, federal guidances conservatively suggest an unphysical model of particulate radioactivity impact wherein the entirety of the radiation is absorped. For this dissertation, two- and three-compartment catenary models were derived which build on measured resuspension rate constants under various influences. These models were fit to a set of historic observations of resuspension factors using an instrumental uncertainty-weighting to resolve the large variances early in time which otherwise inflate calculations. When compared to previous resuspension models, our physical models better fit the data achieving reduced-chi-squared closer to 1. An experiment was undertaken to validate our basic environment resuspension models in an urban environment without wind. A resuspension chamber is constructed by placing an acrylic tube atop a poured concrete surface and lowering a low-volume air sampler head from above. Europium oxide powder was dispersed upon the surface or from above the air sampling height to emulate ideal compartmentalized release scenarios, and air is sampled on an hourly, daily, or weekly basis. Sampler filters then were evaluated for Europium content using neutron activation and gamma spectroscopy. Hourly measurements following airborne release are within an order of magnitude of early-timeframe historic resuspension factors (~10^−6 m^−1), whereas daily and weekly measurements from surface release demonstrate a gradual decrease in resuspension factor (∼10^−8 m^−1). These results support a need to critically assess the resuspension factor definition and its relationship to "initial suspension" and the indoor background, non-anthropogenic resuspension. Finally, a simulated model was generated to demonstrate loss of alpha radiation from relevant transuranic radioparticles. This was accomplished using the Geant4 Monte Carlo particle transport code. This basic model demonstrated a clear loss of average intensity and energy of exiting particles which are both directly related to the absorped dose. The data shows a loss from 10 to 90% of intensity to occur at particle sizes approaching the range of alphas within them, and a loss of roughly half the initial alpha energy at around the same particle sizes. The results establish a first-order baseline for a particulate self-absorption model which complement existing dosimetry models for inhaled radionuclides.


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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radionuclide, kinetic model, aerosol, resuspension, particle size, health risk