Soil contamination with Cs-137 in Austria

This summer we spent nice holiday week in Gosau, small alpine town laying at mountainside of Gosaukamm in a part of Austria known as Salzkammergut. It is very nice place with lot of natural attractions in surrounding area (mountains, lakes, caves, fossils, etc.). When we prepared for the holiday, I looked to the maps of Cs-137 contamination in Austria, since I've known, that there are some areas which were hit by highly contaminated air masses after Chernobyl NPP accident [1,2]. I found out, that the place where we should spend our holidays is also one of such Cs-137 hotspots (Image 1, place is marked with a circle). Surface activity of Cs-137 at this place reached level 60 - 80 kBq/m2 [2]. So the last day of our week in Gosau, I took about 0.5 kg of soil from small meadow in a town for a measurement.

I was really curious to compare Cs-137 contamination in the Czech Republic and Austria, so immediately upon arrival at home I dried my soil sample and prepared it for the measurement. The preparation of the soil sample was the same as described in previous article (Soil contamination with cesium-137 in the Czech Republic). After sieving the soil through a 0.5 mm mesh, 260 g of dry material was taken and gamma spectrum was collected for 39 hours.

Image 1. Map of Astria Cs-137 contamination (May 2016). Source: Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety [2]


Sample Soil 260 g (Gosau - Austria, N47°35'13"N, E13°32'16"E )
Gamma spectrometer Scintillix SCGS-01
Scintillation probe NaI(Tl) 3"
Integration time 140400 (39 h)
Background correction Yes
Shield Lead
Software Theremino v.7.2


For the clarity, how high is the contamination in this part of Austrian Alps, I made a graph (Image 2), where gamma spectra of soil samples from the Czech Republic are compared with the spectrum of the soil from Gosau.

Image 2. Comparison of Cs-137 soil contamination in the Czech Republic (Hradec Kralove, Rasosky) and in one of Astrian Cs-137 hotspots (Gosau). Gamma spectrum processed by moving average (n=7).


Unlike the cases, when I measured Cs-137 contamination in the samples from our country, in this case, cesium photopeak was clearly visible after couple of minutes. I have known, that contamination in some parts of Austria is rather high, but I’ve been still surprised by Cs-137 peak height if compared with measurements, which I've done before.

So what is the conclusion from this experiment? I definitely would not eat anything like mushrooms, blueberries, game, etc. from this area, at least not in higher quantities.



[1] Contamination of Austrian soil with caesium-137, Bossew P., Ditto M., Falkner T. Henrich E. , Kienzl K., Rappelsberger U., J Environ Radioact. 2001;55(2):187-94. (link)

[2] Radioactivity monitoring of meat and animal feeds and emergency preparedness in Austria, Katzlberger Ch., Hofer P., Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety, , 2016 (link)

Tags : radioactivity ,   cesium ,   cesium-137 ,   soil ,   gammaspectrum

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