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Abstract

In 2014, the Geological Survey of Austria (GBA) published – in cooperation with further national institutions – an overview map on radionuclides in groundwater, rocks and stream sediments at a scale of 1:500 000 with explanatory notes. In the frame of this activity, the uranium, 228Ra, 226Ra, 222Rn, 210Pb and 210Po analyses in groundwater studies made by the Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety (AGES) and Environment Agency of Austria (Umweltbundesamt), as well as the uranium and thorium analyses of stream sediments of the GBA and whole-rock analyses from different sources, were evaluated statistically. Furthermore, the GBA’s comprehensive airborne radiometric data were exploited. The aim of this study was to work out typical spectra of the radionuclide content in the groundwater and aquifers of different geological settings.

It appeared that the concentration of 222Rn in groundwater depends significantly on the uranium content of the aquifer. In contrast to this, the other radionuclides in groundwater did not show a clear correlation with uranium and thorium in the subsurface geology. Concerning 228Ra, 226Ra, 210Pb and 210Po, the lack of relationship to the subsurface composition seems to be a result of the low concentrations in groundwater. With respect to uranium in groundwater, there is a mixed situation: on the one hand, high uranium concentrations in groundwater can be observed in the Alps in regions with uranium bearing orthogneisses. On the other hand, in sediment basins of NE Austria where the underlying geology contains little uranium. Whether this is caused by special geological features combined with the given low precipitation or by the extensive agriculture (uranium from phosphate fertilizer) is under examination.

Concerning the threshold values of the radionuclides in groundwater (radiation), no exceedance could be observed. In spite of this, the concentration of the heavy metal uranium sometimes exceeded the threshold value of 15 µg l−1: this is especially true for the regions mentioned above.

In addition, an attempt was made to compare the Austrian values with data from neighbouring countries. It became clear that only a few published datasets exist that are comparable. Radon analyses of soil gas in the Czech Republic and Bavaria show the same geological patterns as the Austrian radon analyses of the groundwater. In addition, to enable the reader to compare the Austrian data with datasets from other countries, additional tables are included here for all types of data. They show the statistic distributions of different geological classes in a coordinated way.

Supplementary material: An Austrian map and explanation notes showing the uranium content of the underground and radionuclides in ground water are available at https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.3780170

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