Articles | Volume 11, issue 4
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 11, 1179–1188, 2011
https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-11-1179-2011

Special issue: Radon, health and natural hazards II

Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 11, 1179–1188, 2011
https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-11-1179-2011

Research article 27 Apr 2011

Research article | 27 Apr 2011

Short-term 222Rn activity concentration changes in underground spaces with limited air exchange with the atmosphere

L. Fijałkowska-Lichwa and T. A. Przylibski L. Fijałkowska-Lichwa and T. A. Przylibski
  • Wrocław University of Technology, Faculty of Geoengineering, Mining and Geology, Institute of Mining Engineering, Division of Geology and Mineral Waters, Wybrzeże S. Wyspiańskiego 27, 50–370 Wrocław, Poland

Abstract. The authors investigated short-time changes in 222Rn activity concentration occurring yearly in two underground tourist facilities with limited air exchange with the atmosphere. One of them is Niedźwiedzia (Bear) Cave in Kletno, Poland – a natural space equipped with locks ensuring isolation from the atmosphere. The other site is Fluorite Adit in Kletno, a section of a disused uranium mine. This adit is equipped with a mechanical ventilation system, operated periodically outside the opening times (at night). Both sites are situated within the same metamorphic rock complex, at similar altitudes, about 2 km apart.

The measurements conducted revealed spring and autumn occurrence of convective air movements. In Bear Cave, this process causes a reduction in 222Rn activity concentration in the daytime, i.e. when tourists, guides and other staff are present in the cave. From the point of view of radiation protection, this is the best situation. For the rest of the year, daily concentrations of 222Rn activity in the cave are very stable. In Fluorite Adit, on the other hand, significant variations in daily 222Rn activity concentrations are recorded almost all year round. These changes are determined by the periods of activity and inactivity of mechanical ventilation. Unfortunately this is inactive in the daytime, which results in the highest values of 222Rn activity concentration at the times when tourists and staff are present in the adit. Slightly lower concentrations of radon in Fluorite Adit are recorded in the winter season, when convective air movements carry a substantial amount of radon out into the atmosphere.

The incorrect usage of mechanical ventilation in Fluorite Adit results in the most unfavourable conditions in terms of radiation protection. The staff working in that facility are exposed practically throughout the year to the highest 222Rn activity concentrations, both at work (in the adit) and at home (outside their working hours). Therefore, not very well considered solution for the ventilation system not only does not prevent radioactive exposure of the staff, but can even increase it.

The authors have also observed comparable characteristics of the annual patterns of 222Rn activity concentration changes in underground spaces and residential buildings situated in the same or similar climatic zones.

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