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Abstract: Radon-Hazard Potential the Beaver Basin, Utah

Charles E. Bishop

Indoor-radon levels in the Beaver basin of southwestern Utah are the highest recorded to date in Utah, ranging from 17.5 to 495 picocuries per liter (pCi/L). Because the U.S. Environment Protection Agency considers indoor-radon levels above 4 pCi/L to represent a risk of lung cancer from long-term exposure, the Utah Geological Survey is preparing a radon-hazard-potential map for the area to help prioritize indoor testing and evaluate the need for radon-resistant construction. Radon is a chemically inert radioactive gas derived from the decay of uranium-238, which is commonly found in rocks and soils. Soil permeability, depth to ground water, and uranium/thorium content of source materials control the mobility and concentration of radon in the soil. Once formed, radon diff ses into the pore space of the soil and then to the atmosphere or into buildings by pressure-driven flow of air or additional diffusion.

The Beaver basin has been a topographic and structural depression since late Miocene time. Paleocene to Miocene volcanic and igneous rocks border the basin. Uraniferous alluvial-fan, piedmont-slope, flood-plain, and lacustrine sediments derived from the surrounding volcanic rocks fill the basin.

A soil-gas radon and ground radioactivity survey in the Beaver basin shows that soils have high levels of radon gas. In this survey, uranium concentrations range from 3 to 13 parts per million (ppm) and thorium concentrations range from 10 to 48 ppm. Radon concentrations in the soil gas ranged from 85 to 3,500 pCi/L. The highest concentrations of uranium, thorium, and radon gas and the highest radon-hazard-potential are in the well-drained permeable soils in the lower flood-plain deposits that underlie the city of Beaver.

AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90959©1995 AAPG Rocky Mountain Section Meeting, Reno, Nevada