Much of Azerbaijan’s Absheron Peninsula is contaminated by natural U-series and Th-series radionuclides, released in the production of oil and gas and, to a lesser extent, by anthropogenic radionuclides, including Sr-90 and Cs-137, from local industrial activities and trans-border transport. The region contains a large number of pipelines and artificial lagoons that have been used to retain excess groundwater and oil residues. In spite of the long history of the oil and gas industry, radioecological investigations have not been carried out until recently. The purpose of this project is to determine the extent of radionuclide contamination in the Absheron Peninsula using a combination of radiation field measurements and laboratory analyses of selected samples, focusing on ten routes in the vicinity of Baku. The routes were selected as most likely to have become contaminated over time. Soil samples, taken from surface and to a depth of 1 m, aqueous samples from surface waters and marshes, and aqueous and sediment lagoons that showed elevated dosimetry readings, were prepared for gamma spectrometric analysis. Control samples were taken from non-contaminated areas. Samples of air and surface waters were analyzed for Rn-220 and Rn-222. The data will then be used to assess the potential impact of the contamination on the local population. A total slightly 4000 dosimetric readings were taken during the course of this investigation. Of these, 1366 (34%) exceeded 5.4 μR/h. This level is two standard deviations above the mean of the least contaminated route, the 79-km Baku-Guba route. Along the routes Baku-Shemakha and Baku-Guba where no oil and gas activity had taken place, radiation levels of 5.1 ± 1.5 and 4.2 ± 0.6 μR/h, respectively, were obtained. The readings for the route Baku-Guba were then used as representing negligible contamination to which the readings of the other sites were compared. In contrast, along the routes Baku-Lokbatan and Baku-Surakhani, that have seen oil- and gas-related activity, radiation levels were sometimes two or three orders of magnitude higher. The most highly contaminated sites were those of two abandoned iodine recovery facilities along the route Baku-Surakhani, the Ramani and Surakhani sites where readings up to 1450 μR/h were obtained. The contamination is due mainly to uranium and thorium in the formation water associated with the oil and gas. Radon measurements did not exceed 20 Bq/m3.

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