Environmental Radioactivity

  • Lecturer: Dr. D. Pittauer

Lecture content:

Environmental radioactivity generates from natural and man-made sources. Both can
have effects on human health and can be used as tracers for environmental transport
processes. Continuous monitoring is required in some cases for safety purposes.
The lecture is based on the work performed at the laboratory of environmental
radioactivity in the IUP. It will cover the basic physics of radioactivity, sampling and
measurement methods, and present examples from the routine and research work of the

The lecture is intended for M.Sc. students.

Course syllabus:


- Basics, units, decay chains/radioactive equilibrium, radiation dose
Origin of environmental radioactivity 1 (natural isotopes):
- Primordial isotopes, natural decay chains, products of cosmic radiation
Origin of environmental radioactivity 2 (man-made isotopes):
- Bomb fallout, nuclear power plants, nuclear medicine, nuclear research

Environmental pathways:

- Air, water, soil, plants, foodchains

Measurement methods 1:

- Principles of nuclear spectroscopy, detector types
Measurement methods 2 (gamma spectroscopy):
- Detector calibration, sample geometry
Environmental sampling and sample preparation:
- Sample types, homogenization, volume reduction, chemical extraction

Practical example 1 (environmental surveillance):

- Routine and emergency programs of the Bremen state lab

Practical example 2 (transport processes):

- Cs-137 in soil, Tc-99 in seafood

Practical example 3 (dating methods):

- Sediment chronology with Pb-210 and C-14


M. Isaksson, C.L. Rääf: Environmental radioactivity and emergency preparedness, CRC
Press 2016 (available as e-book via the University Library

V.Valkovic: Radioactivity in the environment, Elsevier 2000 (available as e-book via the
University Library)

M. Eisenbud: "Envornmental Radioactivity"; Academic Press 1987, a nat 852/707(3)
(also available as e-book via the University Library)

J.R Cooper et al: Radioactive Releases in the Environment, Wiley 2003, a nat 852 e/257