Journal of Environmental Radioactivity; In Press
Uncertainty Assessment Method for the Cs-137 Fallout Inventory and Penetration Depth
Within the presented study, soil samples were collected in year 2007 at 20 different locations of the Greek terrain, both from the surface and also from depths down to 26cm. Sampling locations were selected primarily from areas where high levels of 137Cs deposition after the Chernobyl accident had already been identified by the Nuclear Engineering Laboratory of the National Technical University of Athens during and after the year of 1986. At one location of relatively higher deposition, soil core samples were collected following a 60m by 60m Cartesian grid with a 20m node-to-node distance. Single or pair core samples were also collected from the remaining 19 locations. Sample measurements and analysis were used to estimate 137Cs inventory and the corresponding depth migration, twenty years after the deposition on Greek terrain. Based on these data, the uncertainty components of the whole sampling-to-results procedure were investigated. A cause-and-effect assessment process was used to apply the law of error propagation and demonstrate that the dominating significant component of the combined uncertainty is that due to the spatial variability of the contemporary (2007) 137Cs inventory. A secondary, yet also significant component was identified to be the activity measurement process itself. Other less-significant uncertainty parameters were sampling methods, the variation in the soil field density with depth and the preparation of samples for measurement. The sampling grid experiment allowed for the quantitative evaluation of the uncertainty due to spatial variability, also by the assistance of the semivariance analysis. Denser, optimized grid could return more accurate values for this component but with a significantly elevated laboratory cost, in terms of both, human and material resources. Using the hereby collected data and for the case of a single core soil sampling using a well-defined sampling methodology quality assurance, the uncertainty component due to spatial variability was evaluated to about 19% for the 137Cs inventory and up to 34% for the 137Cs penetration depth. Based on the presented results and also on related literature, it is argued that such high uncertainties should be anticipated for single core samplings conducted using similar methodology and employed as 137Cs inventory and penetration depth estimators.