Global risk from the atmospheric dispersion of radionuclides by nuclear power plant accidents in the coming decades


We estimate the global risk from the release andatmospheric dispersion of radionuclides from nuclear powerplant accidents using the EMAC atmospheric chemistry–general circulation model. We included all nuclear reactorsthat are currently operational, under construction andplanned or proposed. We implemented constant continuousemissions from each location in the model and simulated atmospherictransport and removal via dry and wet depositionprocesses over 20 years (2010–2030), driven by boundaryconditions based on the IPCC A2 future emissions scenario.We present global overall and seasonal risk maps for potentialsurface layer concentrations and ground deposition of radionuclides,and estimate potential doses to humans from inhalationand ground-deposition exposures to radionuclides.We find that the risk of harmful doses due to inhalation istypically highest in the Northern Hemisphere during borealwinter, due to relatively shallow boundary layer developmentand limited mixing. Based on the continued operation of thecurrent nuclear power plants, we calculate that the risk ofradioactive contamination to the citizens of the USA will remainto be highest worldwide, followed by India and France.By including stations under construction and those that areplanned and proposed, our results suggest that the risk willbecome highest in China, followed by India and the USA.

In Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics (ACP)