The technology of plutonium production and processing is already established, but the realization of its peaceful applications depends largely upon the development of methods for preventing its distribution in the environment. Because of safeguards and effective control measures, no accidental plutonium contamination of the public domain has imposed serious risks to a population group. Trace amounts of plutonium from above-ground nuclear detonations are contained in worldwide fallout; however, the levels of plutonium in foodstuffs and other components of the environment are insignificant compared to the amounts known to be hazardous. There has thus been very little interest in the study of ecological aspects of plutonium contamination. The result is a paucity of information on the behavior of plutonium in ecosystems and its radiological effects on natural fauna and flora. The Nevada Applied Ecology Group is embarked upon a program at the Nevada Test Site to investigate the lonrange effects of plutonium disseminated into the desert ecosystem. Emphasis has been placed upon standardization of analytical methods, delineation of contaminated areas, problems of resuspension and redistribution, food chain transport and ecological effects.
©1972Health Physics Society