Transport and accumulation of radionuclides and stable elements in a Missouri River Reservoir

Water Resources Research
By:  and 



Several long sediment cores from the Cheyenne River Embayment of Lake Oahe, a 250-km-long Missouri River reservoir in South Dakota, have been analyzed for radionuclides and stable elements. The combination of fine-scale sampling and rapid sedimentation produces radionuclide distributions that can be used to estimate the detailed chronology of particle transport processes in the Oahe reservoir system. A self-consistent and quantitative treatment of the 137Cs data suggests processes to which characteristic times may be associated. Times that characterize system-wide processes include (1) an integration time of several years reflecting retention of the sediment-bound tracer in regions within or external to the reservoir, (2) a relaxation time of approximately 15 years reflecting a decreasing rate of sediment accumulation ascribed to shoreline stabilization, (3) a time of a few months characterizing the breadth of riverine signatures in cores due to integration effects in the Cheyenne River system and deltaic deposits, and (4) times of a few years associated with propagation of riverine load signatures along the embayment. The distribution of total sedimentary arsenic confirms the validity of the variable sedimentation model. In 1977, a tailings retention facility was built at the Homestake Mine site, and the unrestricted input of As ceased. As a result of this remedial action, the concentration of sedimentary As decreased dramatically. In the upper section of the core, above the depth represented by the year 1976, the concentration of As decreases tenfold. In this same core the distribution of lithologically discriminating chemical elements, calcium and vanadium, relate to major flow events in the Cheyenne River basin. Because there is minimal diagenesis of chemical constituents in these rapidly accumulating sediments, stable element signatures, in addition to radiotracers, may be used to reconstruct hydrologic events in drainage basins that contribute sediment to lakes and reservoirs.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Transport and accumulation of radionuclides and stable elements in a Missouri River Reservoir
Series title Water Resources Research
DOI 10.1029/93WR00387
Volume 29
Issue 6
Year Published 1993
Language English
Publisher American Geophysical Union
Contributing office(s) Toxic Substances Hydrology Program
Description 18 p.
First page 1787
Last page 1804
Country United States
State South Dakota
Other Geospatial Whitewood Creek-Belle Fourche River-Cheyenne River system
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