The self-cleaning capacity of surface waters after radioactive fallout. Evidence from European waters after Chernobyl, 1986-1988 Academic Article uri icon


  • Radionuclide fallout from the burning Chernobyl reactor provided a pulsed input of 137Cs to surface waters and watersheds of Europe. Radionuclide analyses of surface waters indicated that initial rates of decrease of 137Cs concentrations in contaminated rivers were on the order of 0.125 day1, which was found to be consistent with the size of the mobile inventory in the watersheds (i.e., ~1% of total) and with the initial dilution rate (i.e., ~0.5 m1) in river water. Analysis of 134Cs and 137Cs in waters from five different lakes in Switzerland and of settling particles collected in sediment traps from one of the lakes, Lake Zurich, revealed relatively fast whole-lake removal rates. Residence times of 137Cs in the five study lakes ranged from 5 to 21 months. Horizontal boundaries in this lake appeared to have acted first as sinks of Chernobyl 137Cs from the upper water column and later as sources of 137Cs to deeper parts of Lake Zurich. Rates of adsorption/desorption of 137Cs associated with settling particles, when compared in subsurface waters to those of uptake/release by other processes occurring in the lake, were found to be small. 1990, American Chemical Society. All rights reserved.

published proceedings

  • Environmental Science & Technology

author list (cited authors)

  • Santschi, P. H., Bollhalder, S., Zingg, S., Lueck, A., & Farrenkothen, K.

citation count

  • 102

complete list of authors

  • Santschi, Peter H||Bollhalder, S||Zingg, S||Lueck, A||Farrenkothen, K

publication date

  • April 1990