Characterisation of radon levels in soil and groundwater in the North Maladeta Fault area (Central Pyrenees) and their effects on indoor radon concentration in a thermal spa

Radon levels in the soil and groundwater in the North Maladeta Fault area (located in the Aran Valley sector, Central Pyrenees) are analysed from both geological and radiation protection perspectives. This area is characterised by the presence of two important normal faults: The North Maladeta fault (NMF) and the Tredós Fault (TF). Two primary aspects make this study interesting: (i) the NMF shows geomorphic evidence of neotectonic activity and (ii) the presence of a thermal spa, Banhs de Tredós, which exploits one of the several natural springs of the area and needs to be evaluated for radiation dosing from radon according to the European regulation on basic safety standards for protection against ionising radiation. The average soil radon and thoron concentrations along a profile perpendicular to the two normal faults – 22?±?3?kBq·m-3 and 34?±?3?kBq·m-3, respectively – are not high and can be compared to the radionuclide content of the granitic rocks of the area, 25?±?4 Bq·kg-1 for 226Ra and 38?±?2 Bq·kg-1 for 224Ra. However, the hypothesis that the normal faults are still active is supported by the presence of anomalies in both the soil radon and thoron levels that are unlikely to be of local origin together with the presence of similar anomalies in CO2 fluxes and the fact that the highest groundwater radon values are located close to the normal faults. Additionally, groundwater 222Rn data have complemented the hydrochemistry data, enabling researchers to better distinguish between water pathways in the granitic and non-granitic aquifers. Indoor radon levels in the spa vary within a wide range, [7-1664] Bq·m-3 because the groundwater used in the treatment rooms is the primary source of radon in the air. Tap water radon levels inside the spa present an average value of 50?±?8?kBq·m-3, which does not exceed the level stipulated by the Spanish Nuclear Safety Council (CSN) of 100?kBq·m-3 for water used for human consumption. This finding implies that even relatively low radon concentration values in water can constitute a relevant indoor radon source when the transfer from water to indoor air is efficient. The estimated effective dose range of values for a spa worker due to radon inhalation is [1-9] mSv·y-1. The use of annual averaged radon concentration values may significantly underestimate the dose in these situations; therefore, a detailed dynamic study must be performed by considering the time that the workers spend in the spa.

Authors: Moreno V, Bach J, Zarroca M, Font L, Roqué C, Linares R. ; Full Source: Journal of Environmental Radioactivity. 2018 Mar 12; 189:1-13. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvrad.2018.03.001. [Epub ahead of print]

Posted in Uncategorized