Radionuclides that are injected into the Earth's atmosphere eventually deposit through gravitation, dry deposition, or precipitation (i.e., wet deposition) processes and migrate toward terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems via surface waters or groundwaters into deeper soil layers and reservoirs, as shown in Figure 3, potentially increasing risks to public health and the ecological environment.
The mechanisms of transport in the terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems involve a few main processes, such as the physical processes (i.e., interception, runoff, soil infiltration, resuspension, and underground water transport) that are independent of the radionuclides, the biological processes (i.e., uptakes by plants and animals), and the chemical processes (i.e., ion-exchange) that are strongly dependent on the element and its chemical form. Each process is complicated and poorly understood, requiring further investigation and detailed study. They are briefly described below.
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