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Home arrow News arrow The Potential for Long Range Transport of Windblown Radionuclide Aerosols
The Potential for Long Range Transport of Windblown Radionuclide Aerosols Print

This image was taken using a High Definition monitoring camera located near WCR 96 and WCR 13 looking east towards Nunn (left) and Ault (right) during a typical late afternoon thunderstorm microburst wind event (late June, 2009). Shown is a cloud of soil and dust made airborne by wind gusts of ~ 50 mph. Such winds are common in Weld County, occurring on average about twice monthly.

This dust cloud, at the leading edge of a thunderstorm, is approximately 10 miles long (not all shown) and over 2000 ft in height. Large amounts of loose dust or soil matter are often lofted by such winds and carried tens or even hundreds of miles. Indeed, Colorado dust plumes have been tracked by satellite into adjacent states.

Surface soil particles contaminated by tailings from well drillings or from the dried residue of drilling fluids can potentially be carried great distances. Smaller particles (under 10 microns) can be ingested into lungs and nasal passages. Larger particles will deposit on crop and pasturelands, gardens, rivers and reservoirs for many miles downwind.

ANY surface soil contaminated by radionuclide and heavy metals has the potential to become airborne unless strict remedial measures are undertaken. The spraying of contaminated drilling fluids on grasslands can leave a residue of dust available for lofting by winds. Or, in the case of a grass fire, the small particles will then become part of the smoke plume which can also travel for tens of miles.

These smoke particles will likely be in a size range easily ingested in lungs (thus U308 can be inhaled into and deposited in lung tissue thereafter to emit alpha radiation into sensitive tissues.)

Prepared by:

Walter A. Lyons, Ph.D. (Weld County taxpayer)
Certified Consulting Meteorologist
Past President, American Meteorological Society
President, National Council of Industrial Meteorologists
Past Chair, AMS Meteorological Aspects of Air Pollution Committee
Consultant to US EPA, US NRC, NOAA, NSF, NASA, DOE and the nuclear power industry.

For more information on uranium mining's hazardous wastes, click here.


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