Use of tritium to predict soluble pollutants transport in Ebro River waters (Spain)

Ll Pujol, J. A. Sanchez-Cabeza

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19 Citations (Scopus)


The Ebro River, in Northeast Spain, discharges into the Mediterranean Sea after flowing through several large cities and agricultural, mining and industrial areas. The Asco nuclear power plant (NPP) is located in its lower section and comprises two pressurised water reactor units, from which low- level liquid radioactive waste is released to river waters under authority control. Tritium routinely released by the NPP was used as a radiotracer to determine the longitudinal dispersion coefficient and velocity of the river waters. Several field experiments, in co-ordination with the NPP, were carried out during 1991 and 1992. During each field experiment, the flow rate was kept constant by dams located upstream from the NPP. After each tritium release, water was sampled downstream at periodic intervals over several hours and tritium was measured with a low-background liquid scintillation counter. Velocity and dispersion coefficient were determined in river waters for several river discharges using an analytical, box-type and numerical approach to solve the one-dimensional advection-diffusion equation. The set of calibrated parameters was used to predict the displacement and dispersion of soluble pollutants in river waters. Velocity was determined as a function of river discharge and river slope, and dispersion coefficient was determined as a function of distance. Finally, sensitivity of the model predictions was studied and uncertainties of the fitted parameters were estimated. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)257-269
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2000


  • Advection-diffusion equation
  • Longitudinal dispersion coefficient
  • Numerical methods
  • River
  • Water pollution


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