Testing prediction capabilities of an 131I terrestrial transport model by using measurements collected at the Hanford nuclear facility

Health Phys. 2005 May;88(5):439-58. doi: 10.1097/01.hp.0000152113.43024.dd.


A model describing transport of 131I in the environment was developed by SENES Oak Ridge, Inc., for assessment of radiation doses and excess lifetime risk from 131I atmospheric releases from Oak Ridge Reservation in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and from Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory in southeast Idaho. This paper describes the results of an exercise designed to test the reliability of this model and to identify the main sources of uncertainty in doses and risks estimated by this model. The testing of the model was based on materials published by the International Atomic Energy Agency BIOMASS program, specifically environmental data collected after the release into atmosphere of 63 curies of 131I during 2-5 September 1963, after an accident at the Hanford PUREX Chemical Separations Plant, in Hanford, Washington. Measurements of activity in air, vegetation, and milk were collected in nine counties around Hanford during the first couple of months after the accident. The activity of 131I in the thyroid glands of two children was measured 47 d after the accident. The model developed by SENES Oak Ridge, Inc., was used to estimate concentrations of 131I in environmental media, thyroid doses for the general population, and the activity of 131I in thyroid glands of the two children. Predicted concentrations of 131I in pasture grass and milk and thyroid doses were compared with similar estimates produced by other modelers. The SENES model was also used to estimate excess lifetime risk of thyroid cancer due to the September 1963 releases of 131I from Hanford. The SENES model was first calibrated and then applied to all locations of interest around Hanford without fitting the model parameters to a given location. Predictions showed that the SENES model reproduces satisfactorily the time-dependent and the time-integrated measured concentrations in vegetation and milk, and provides reliable estimates of 131I activity in thyroids of children. SENES model generated concentrations of 131I closer to observed concentrations, as compared to the predictions produced with other models. The inter-model comparison showed that variation of thyroid doses among all participating models (SENES model included) was a factor of 3 for the general population, but a factor of 10 for the two studied children. As opposed to other models, SENES model allows a complete analysis of uncertainties in every predicted quantity, including estimated thyroid doses and risk of thyroid cancer. The uncertainties in the risk-per-unit-dose and the dose-per-unit-intake coefficients are major contributors to the uncertainty in the estimated lifetime risk and thyroid dose, respectively. The largest contributors to the uncertainty in the estimated concentration in milk are the feed-to-milk transfer factor (F(m)), the dry deposition velocity (V(d)), and the mass interception factor (r/Y)dry for the elemental form of iodine (I2). Exposure to the 1963 PUREX/Hanford accident produced low doses and risks for people living at the studied locations. The upper 97.5th percentile of the excess lifetime risk of thyroid cancer for the most extreme situations is about 10(-4). Measurements in pasture grass and milk at all locations around Hanford indicate a very low transfer of 131I from pasture to cow's milk (e.g., a feed-to-milk transfer coefficient, F(m), for commercial cows of about 0.0022 d L(-1)). These values are towards the low end of F(m) values measured elsewhere and they are low compared to the F(m) values used in other dose reconstruction studies, including the Hanford Environmental Dose Reconstruction.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Air Movements
  • Body Burden
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Computer Simulation
  • Female
  • Food Chain
  • Food Contamination, Radioactive / analysis
  • Geography / methods
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Iodine Radioisotopes / analysis*
  • Male
  • Models, Biological*
  • Neoplasms, Radiation-Induced / epidemiology*
  • Nuclear Reactors / statistics & numerical data
  • Radiation Dosage
  • Radiation Monitoring / methods*
  • Radioactive Fallout / analysis
  • Radioactive Fallout / statistics & numerical data*
  • Relative Biological Effectiveness
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Risk Assessment / methods*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Washington / epidemiology


  • Iodine Radioisotopes
  • Radioactive Fallout