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Half a century of Krypton-85 activity concentration measured in air over Central Europe: Trends and relevance for dating young groundwater

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Author Bollhöfer Andreas, Schlosser Clemens, Schmid Sabine, Konrad Martina, Purtschert Roland, Krais Roman,
Project Klima- und Umweltphysik: Isotope im Erdklimasystem (icoCEP)
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Journal of Environmental Radioactivity
Volume (Issue) 205-206
Page(s) 7 - 16
Title of proceedings Journal of Environmental Radioactivity


For almost half a century weekly samples for the measurement of krypton-85 (85Kr) activity concentrations in surface air have been collected by the Bundesamt für Strahlenschutz (BfS), Germany. Sampling started at Freiburg (230m asl) in 1973, Mt Schauinsland (1205m asl) in 1976 and Mt Jungfraujoch in Switzerland (3454 asl) in 1990. Distinct maxima in the time series of atmospheric 85Kr activity concentration are caused by emissions from nuclear reprocessing plants in Europe, mainly the La Hague, France, and Sellafield, UK, reprocessing plants. Between 1970 and 1990 peak activity concentrations measured in winter along the Rhine Rift in Freiburg are often higher than at Mt Schauinsland, due to emissions from the operating pilot reprocessing plant in Karlsruhe - approximately 130 km to the north - and large-scale inversions that inhibit exchange of air masses within the Rhine Rift with those at higher altitudes. From the early 1990s onwards, after the shut-down of the pilot plant, differences between Freiburg and Schauinsland are much smaller. Activity concentrations measured at Jungfraujoch are generally lower and close to baseline levels, due to its location in the free troposphere. Weekly baseline and average 85Kr activity concentration in the atmosphere in Central Europe were modelled from almost 12,000 individual measurements at 11 stations. The baseline and average have continuously increased, interrupted by a relatively stable period between 2009 and the end of 2014 with a baseline activity concentration of about 1.39 Bq/m3. Depending on the geographical location and hydrological conditions, the modelled baseline or average 85Kr activity concentration time series can be used as input functions for the dating of young groundwater.