Journal of Nuclear Chemistry

Journal of Nuclear Chemistry / 2013 / Article

Research Article | Open Access

Volume 2013 |Article ID 849732 |

Y. P. Gautam, Saivajay Sharma, A. K. Sharma, Aviansh Kumar, P. M. Ravi, P. K. Sarkar, "Studies on the Rain Scavenging Process of Tritium in a Tropical Site at Narora in India", Journal of Nuclear Chemistry, vol. 2013, Article ID 849732, 6 pages, 2013.

Studies on the Rain Scavenging Process of Tritium in a Tropical Site at Narora in India

Academic Editor: Karnam Ramakumar
Received04 Dec 2012
Accepted05 Feb 2013
Published02 Apr 2013


This study presents the results of systematic experiments on tritium (3H) concentrations in ground level air against those in rainwater near a pressurized heavy water reactor in a tropical region. The samples were collected over the rainy season of year 2011 from eight locations in the environment around Narora Atomic Power Station. The specific activity ratio of 3H between rainwater and air moisture at ground level was calculated for each data set. The average specific activity ratio was found to be ranged from 0.12 to 1.1. A correlation ( to 0.76, ) was observed between the total rain hours in a day and the rainwater 3H activity. Higher rain duration with slower rain rate yielded higher 3H concentrations as more time was available for the scavenging/wash-out process to take effect together with lower dilution. Annual tritium (HTO) wet deposition has been measured and calculated for the year 2011 within 0.8 km distance from 145 m high stack of Narora Atomic Power Station (NAPS) at nine locations in different directions. The range of deposition velocity, (m·s−1), at nine locations for the years 2011 is found to be from 4.43E − 04 to 6.42E − 03. The average value for wet deposition velocity for NAPS site is estimated as 3.17E − 03 m·s−1.

1. Introduction

Tritium (3H) is one of the major long-lived radioisotopes in the gaseous effluent released from any Pressurized Heavy Water Reactor (PHWR). Tritium produced in a PHWR is released into the atmosphere in the form of tritiated water vapour (HTO) [1]. Because of its physicochemical similarity with water, HTO is incorporated in all environmental matrices such as soil, air, and biota. In order to carry out an impact assessment due to 3H, it is necessary to understand the kinetics of transfer of 3H through the various environmental matrices. The process of 3H removal from the atmosphere is by either wet or dry deposition [2]. When raindrops pass vertically through an HTO plume, rainwater scavenges 3H from the air due to a wash-out process. Scavenging by rain is one of the phenomena which transfers substances present in the atmosphere to the ground. It consists of two steps, known as in-cloud scavenging (rain out) and below cloud scavenging (wash out) [3]. Scavenging ratios represent the vertical scavenging efficiencies of transfer from the atmosphere to rainwater. Velarde and Perlado [4] reported that wet deposition is critical for the incorporation of tritiated water vapour into the natural biological chain. It has been reported that the wash-out coefficient of  3H depends upon the distance from the source, atmospheric stability, air temperature, and so forth [5]. The process of washout of  3H due to precipitation is quite different from that of particulate matter (radionuclides) such as 90Sr and 137Cs. It is reported that rain scavenging of particulates is an irreversible process while that of 3H is reversible [6]. The theory of washout of gaseous pollutants from the atmosphere was first comprehensively applied to tritiated water (HTO) vapour by Hales [7, 8]. Using a gas scavenging model, the wash out of tritiated water from an atmospheric plume emitted from a 60 m stack was calculated by Dana et al. [9] and Abrol [6]. Many assumptions, such as raindrops being spherical, that their size remains constant during a downfall, that they fall vertically with a constant velocity, and so forth are made during any theoretical evaluation of 3H concentration in rainwater. Satisfaction of all of these assumptions is unlikely. Hence, the modelled value can be very dissimilar to the actual value. There should be an attempt to analyze experimentally observed values of 3H activity in rainwater to better understand the parameters influencing the 3H wash-out process. The range of 3H emission from Narora Atomic Power Station during study period was 103.6 to 584.6 GB qd−1 with an average 196.4 GB qd−1.

Belovodski et al. [10] studied the kinetics of wash-out tritium oxide (HTO) from air by water drops under laboratory conditions. Nankar et al. [11] carried out a comprehensive study on the deposition characteristics at Kakrapar site in central western and off the coast part of India, and Reji et al. [12] carried out similar studies at Kaiga site south west and off the coast of India. Similar studies have not been conducted in north central part of India which is climatically quite different as compared to Kakrapar and Kaiga sites. This study presents the measured 3H activity in air moisture and in rainwater collected at ground level near a PHWR. The samples were collected over the rainy season of year 2011 from nine different locations within NAPS site. Each data set contains 3H activity in air, rainwater, and the corresponding meteorological parameters of wind speed, wind direction, Pasquill’s stability category, atmospheric temperature, and relative humidity. The specific activity ratios, that is, the ratio of the specific activity of tritium in rainwater (Bq·L−1) to that in air moisture (Bq·L−1), were calculated for each data set. A total of 22 data sets were collected and interpreted based on the theoretical information available in the literature.

2. Experimental Procedures

2.1. Site Description and Sample Collection

This study was carried out at the Narora Atomic Power Station (NAPS) site. It is an inland site situated on the right bank of Lower Ganga Canal (LGC) and Parallel Lower Ganga Canal (PLGC) at a distance of 3.5 km from Narora Barrage. The area of the plant site is fairly flat terrain with dense farming activities around the site. The site lies in Indo-Gangetic alluvium, bordered on the north by the Shivalic foothills, which is about 60 km away from Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh state, India (latitude 28°10′00′′ North and longitude 78°24′09′′ East). At NAPS, two pressured heavy water reactors (PHWRs) having capacity of each 220 MWe are operating since the year 1991. The average annual rainfall recorded at NAPS site during 1989–2011 is 890 mm. Air moisture and rainwater samples were collected simultaneously from three locations within NAPS site. The sampling location is given in Figure 1. Air moisture was collected by a moisture condensation method [13], and rainwater was collected by spot sampling during the period of rain.

2.2. Estimation of  3H Activity

An aliquot (3 mL) of the sample was mixed with 7 mL scintillator cocktail Di-Isopropyl-Naphthalene- (DIN-) based Ultima Gold LLT liquid scintillation solution and counted for 3H using an ultra low-level Liquid Scintillation Spectrometer (LSS) system (model: TRICARB-3170 TR/SL). The counting system was calibrated using a 3H standard supplied by Amersham International. The system background count rate was 1-2 counts per minute, and the counting efficiency for 3H was about 25%. Detection limits varied depending on sample type, counting time, and mass.

2.3. Meteorological Data Collection

Meteorological parameters such as wind speed, wind direction, stability category, atmospheric temperature, and relative humidity were collected using sensors installed on meteorological tower located at the site. The primary meteorological data were 1 h averaged values. Using a power law [14], wind characteristics were extended up to 145 m.

2.4. Estimation of Wet Deposition Velocity

The measured 3H concentration (Bq·L−1) in daily rainwater at a sampling point was multiplied by rainfall (mm) during the sampling period to determine deposition per unit area (Bq·m−2) and summed up to evaluate annual 3H surface loading due to rainfall. Wet deposition velocity of airborne activity due to rainfall (NCRP-Report No. 76,1992) was calculated using the relation given by where is the wet deposition velocity (m·s−1);   is the wet flux (Bq·m−2·s−1); is the surface level air concentration (Bq·m−3).

3. Results and Discussions

3.1. Meteorological Characteristics of Sampling Location

Meteorological data such as wind speed, wind direction, stability, temperature, and humidity were recorded during the sampling events and are reported in Table 1. The hourly average wind speed at 145 m (extrapolated from the measurement point at 30 m; Faw and Shultis, [14]) during the sampling events varied from 1.42 m s−1 to 6.6 m s−1. In most events, the wind was observed to be in the SE sector and the stability category was D. The atmospheric stability category was measured using the standard procedure using standard deviation of wind direction and wind speed at 10 m height. Figures 2(a) and 2(b) show the wind roses at 145 m height for 2011 during the rainy seasons and the overall wind rose across 2011. This figure represents the prevailing wind directions and the distribution of wind speed.

Sr. number Date of sampling
Wind speed at 145 m (m/sec)
Wind direction (Sector) P-G stability class Temperature (°C)Relative humidity (%)Moisture content
(g m−3)
Total rain hours

3.2. Variation of 3H Activity in Air Moisture and Rainwater Sample

Table 2 shows the activity of 3H in air moisture and in rainwater collected during various days comprising single rain events at ground level. It was observed that the mean 3H activity in air varied from 0.5 to 15.7 Bq·m−3 (equivalent to 35–992.4 Bq·L−1 of air moisture) and in rainwater varied from 14.2 to 124 Bq·L−1. For comparison, Miljević et al. [15] reported annual mean 3H concentrations in precipitation from 2.2 to 35.4 Bq·L−1 in the vicinity of the Vinca Institute of Nuclear Sciences, Yugoslavia. The maximum air 3H activity at the NAPS site was observed on July 25 2011, and the maximum rainwater 3H activity was observed on August 24 2011, at HWM dyke. It is to be noted that the maximum air 3H activity was poorly correlated with the maximum rainwater 3H activity. This can be attributed to the complexity of the wash-out process and the variation of the influencing parameters. The influence of total rain hours in a day on the rainwater 3H activity was studied for all eight locations, and a correlation coefficient for total rain hours in a day on the rainwater 3H activity ranging from 0.62 to 0.76 () was found (Figure 3). The duration of a rainfall event was more important than the rain rate. Higher rain duration with slower rain rate yielded higher 3H concentration in rainwater. This may be due to the extended period available for the scavenging/wash-out process to take effect together with lower dilution. Hence, more 3H will transfer from air moisture to rainwater.

Location, distance (Km), and direction from NAPSRange of  3H in rain (Bq/L)Geometric mean of  3H in rain (Bq/L)Average moisture 3H concentration Bq/m3 ( ) 3H surface loading (W)
Average deposition velocity (m/sec)
Average moisture 3H concentration
Specific activity ratio

SWMF, 0.61 km, SSE12–35686.055.13 325.10.26
WMP Dyke, 0.65 km, SSE10–49697.964.09 258.70.38
WMP Incr. 0.68 km, SSE10–648124.0415.71 992.40.12
HWM Dyke, 0.55 km, SE10–48647.893.14 210.00.23
Radha Canteen, 0.48 km, SE10–42714.800.71 53.40.28
Switch Yard 0.46 km, SW10–45720.451.30 84.50.24
IDCT, 0.34 km, ENE10–42840.030.45 35.31.13
Guard House, 0.44 km, NW10–46523.800.65 52.40.45
ESL, 0.8 km, WNW10–19314.220.53 41.60.34

Attanassov and Galeriu [16] reported that the wash-out process was influenced most significantly by rainfall parameters and air temperature. Different raindrop size distributions cause differences of up to about 70% in the wash-out outputs; a change of 15°C in the air temperature causes an effect of about 50%. More experiments are planned to study the influence of raindrop size distribution and other local meteorological parameters on the wash-out process of 3H.

3.3. Estimation of Specific Activity Ratio

The specific activity ratio of tritium between rainwater and air moisture is a measure of scavenging of tritium from air moisture to rainwater. The specific activity ratio, defined as the ratio of specific activity of 3H in rainwater collected at ground level to the specific activity of 3H in air moisture collected at the ground level, is reported in Table 2. The specific activity ratios estimated at all eight locations within the site boundary of NAPS for each single rain event varied from 0.12 to 1.1. The value 1.1 observed near IDCT may be due to steam release from IDCT.

Belot [5] observed that the scavenging of 3H by rain is a two-stage process: the incorporation of 3H into raindrops from the plume and the reemission of 3H while passing through clean air. The extent of incorporation of 3H into the raindrop depends upon factors such as the drop size distribution, the ambient temperature, and the contact time between the HTO plume and the raindrop.

3.4. Estimation of Wet Deposition Velocity

Table 2 shows that deposition velocity at nine locations for the year 2011 for Narora region is found to be from 4.4E − 04 to 6.4E − 03 m·s−1. The average value for wet deposition velocity for NAPS site is estimated as 3.2E − 03 m·s−1 (Figure 4), which is comparable with the reported value of 1.6E − 03 by Vogt [17] and 6.6E − 03 by Reji et al. [12].

4. Conclusions

The present study makes some progress toward understanding the HTO wash-out process in a tropical region using measurements of the 3H concentration in air moisture and rainwater collected at ground level downwind of an HTO source. The average 3H activity in rainwater increased as the total rain hours in a day increased, and the correlation coefficient of 0.62 to 0.76 () was estimated for various locations. Higher rain duration with slower rain rate yielded higher 3H concentration as more time was available for the scavenging/wash-out process to take effect together with lower dilution. A variation of 0.12 to 1.13 in the tritium-specific activity ratio between raindrop and air moisture at ground level was observed with an average of 0.38.


The authors would like to thank Dr. A. K. Ghosh, Director, Health, Safety and Environment Group (HS&E group), BARC, for his keen interest and encouragement. The continuous support given by Shri. S. K. Sharma, Station Director, NAPS, and Shri. D. S. Choudhary, Chief Superintendent, NAPS, is gratefully acknowledged. Thanks are also due to other colleagues in ESL, NAPS, for their help and cooperation.


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Copyright © 2013 Y. P. Gautam et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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