Reconstruction of radioactive plume characteristics along Chernobyl's Western Trace

Ronald K. Chesser, Mikhail Bondarkov, Robert J. Baker, Jeffrey K. Wickliffe, Brenda E. Rodgers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Using data obtained from 435 radiation sampling stations in the Red Forest, 1.5 km W of the Chernobyl Nuclear Complex, we reconstructed the deposition pathway of the first plume released by the accident, Chernobyl's Western Trace. The dimensions and deposition rates of the plume remain sharply defined 15 years after the accident. Assuming a uniform particle distribution within the original cloud, we derived estimates of plume dimensions by applying geometric transformations to the coordinates at each sample point. Our derived estimates for the radioactive cloud accounted for 87% of the variation of radioactivity in this region. Results show a highly integrated bell-shaped cross-section of the cloud of radiation, approximately 660 m wide and 290 m high, traveling at a bearing of 264° from reactor IV. Particle sizes within Chernobyl's Western Trace were within the most dangerous range for inhaled aerosols (2-5 μm). Therefore, reconstruction of the dispersion of such particles is critical for understanding the aftermath of nuclear and biological aerosol releases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)147-157
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Environmental Radioactivity
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2004


  • Aerosol
  • Chernobyl
  • Dispersion
  • Fallout
  • Radioactivity


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