|Summary / Abstract
The National Park Service (NPS) conducted a research program from mid-1975 to early 1978 to measure alpha radiation levels in natural caves which it administers. Subsequently, a long-term management program was developed which has conducted routine monitoring of radiation levels and has computed employee exposure accumulations in certain NPS caves. The overall program: research and management; was undertaken to evaluate the possible health hazard to cave visitors, interpreters, researchers, maintenance personnel, concessions employees and other workers and to protect their health. The results of this work have been reported extensively elsewhere (see References 1 through 3, 5, 6, 9 through 13, and 14 through 26).
This paper deals with the relation of radon gas and daughter produced radiation levels to the cave air flows which mobilize them. These flows are a function of interior cave and exterior ambient air temperatures and pressures and of the cave's geophysical configuration. The low-level, ionizing radiation is produced by minute concentrations of radon and thoron gases which emanate from within caves. Because of confinement, the radiation levels are often appreciably higher than in surface atmospheres. Subsequent radioactive disintegration of the gases into their ionized "daughter" products, which are particulates, permits distribution of the alpha radiation throughout a cave system. The extent and character of this distribution depends upon the particular cave and the air flows which it produces. Thus, the alpha radiation serves as a "tracer" to describe the flows.
The flow analysis is divided into two parts:
1) A qualitative description with respect to the two basic geophysical cave types over both long-term (annual) and short-term (diurnal to weekly) periods.
2) A quantitative description of the unsteady, uniform and non-uniform, one-dimensional, incompressible motions for both influent and effluent air flow situations in both basic geophysical cave types.
A part of the qualitative description presents "Special Measurement" data: Tsivoglou [vs.] Kusnetz working levels, Tsivoglou individual daughter levels and free ion concentrations, radon gas concentrations, and equilibrium ratios. A great deal of important work has been carried out by Mr. Bobby C. Carson, Cave Radiation Technician at Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky. He reports these findings later in this conference (Ref. 6). Some of his results have been used here to establish the cave air flow analysis. Other National Park Service personnel have made measurements at others of the caves for which data are reported here. All of this work and cooperation has been vital to the success of this research program. It is very much appreciated.
THEORETICAL FLOW DESCRIPTION
Previously reported research (See Ref's. 20, 21, 23 and 25) has established the qualitative relationship between the alpha radiation in caves and their natural air flows. The radiation serves as a representation of these air flows. Changes in radiation with time represent changes in the main forces which produce the air flows. The quantitative data have substantiated that [all caves in which the primary cause of air flow is due to temperature produced gravity (density) gradients and also having minimal man-made disturbances, experience seasonal variations in airborne alpha radiation. The radiation levels increase in summer but decrease in winter], based upon seasonal air movements through each cave system which occur naturally.
Two general types of physical cave configurations which control the air flows have been identified as:
1. Those which go up into a hillside or mountainside: Type I ("Upside-down" = USD).
2. Those which go down into the earth; Type II ("Right-side-up" = RSU).
These act to control the air flows seasonally. The summer increase in Type I caves is due to increased air flows, whereas in Type II caves it results from stagnation or reduced air flows. This seeming paradox is explained by the physics of the air flow regime in each cave type and has been detailed elsewhere [Ref's. (20), (22) through (25)]. It[ i] true, in general, that air flow decreases airborne radiation in the [immediate vicinity] in which it occurs. Any paradox results from subsequent distribution throughout the case as to [ how] the air moves through a cave [system] with respect to time and space.
Exceptions to the cave air flow "rule" are:
1. Caves in which pressure gradients and pressure fluctuations [predominate] in producing the air flows.
2. Caves in which man-made effects and management practices are superimposed on the natural air flow regime. Man-made disturbances which can alter the natural cave air flows are tunnels, elevator shafts, bore holes, sealed and closed portals, etc. If these are not properly sealed, the natural air flows which they change will totally alter the distribution and seasonal variations of the alpha radiation levels.
These exceptions may act separately or in combination.