A model for estimating the total absorbed dose to the thyroid in Swedish inhabitants following the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant accident: implications for existing international estimates and future model applications

J Radiol Prot. 2019 Apr;39(2):522-547. doi: 10.1088/1361-6498/ab0577. Epub 2019 Feb 8.


The time-integrated absorbed dose to the thyroid gland in the years after a fallout event can indicate the potential excess number of thyroid cancers among young individuals after a radionuclide release. Typical mean values of the absorbed dose to the thyroid have been calculated previously using reported data on radioiodine obtained from air sampling and dairy milk surveys in Sweden after the Chernobyl fallout, not including the contribution from 134Cs and 137Cs. We have developed a model for Swedish conditions taking these additional dose contributions into account. Our estimate of the average time-integrated absorbed dose to the thyroid, D th,tot, during the first 5 years after fallout ranged from 0.5-4.1 mGy for infants and from 0.3-3.3 mGy for adults. The contribution to D th,tot from 131I through inhalation and milk consumption varied considerably among different regions of Sweden, ranging from 9%-79% in infants, and from 4%-58% in adults. The external irradiation and exposure from the ingestion of 134,137Cs in foodstuffs accounted for the remaining contributions to D th,tot (i.e. up to 96% for adults). These large variations can be explained by the highly diverse conditions in the regions studied, such as different degrees of fractionation between wet and dry deposition, different grazing restrictions on dairy cattle, and differences in 134,137Cs transfers through food resulting from differences in the local fallout. It is our conclusion that the main contribution to D th,tot from nuclear power plant fallout in areas subjected to predominantly wet deposition will be from external exposure from ground deposition, followed by internal exposure from contaminated food containing the long-lived fission product 137Cs and the neutron-activated fission product 134Cs. The contribution from 134,137Cs to the thyroid absorbed dose should thus be taken into account in future epidemiological studies.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chernobyl Nuclear Accident*
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis*
  • Female
  • Forecasting
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Nuclear Power Plants*
  • Radiation Dosage*
  • Radiation Exposure / analysis*
  • Sweden
  • Thyroid Gland / radiation effects*