Radiological dosimetry for nonhuman biota typically relies on calculations that utilize the Monte Carlo simulations of simple, ellipsoidal geometries with internal radioactivity distributed homogeneously throughout. In this manner it is quick and easy to estimate whole-body dose rates to biota. Voxel models are detailed anatomical phantoms that were first used for calculating radiation dose to humans, which are now being extended to nonhuman biota dose calculations. However, if simple ellipsoidal models provide conservative dose-rate estimates, then the additional labor involved in creating voxel models may be unnecessary for most scenarios. Here we show that the ellipsoidal method provides conservative estimates of organ dose rates to small mammals. Organ dose rates were calculated for environmental source terms from Maralinga, the Nevada Test Site, Hanford and Fukushima using both the ellipsoidal and voxel techniques, and in all cases the ellipsoidal method yielded more conservative dose rates by factors of 1.2–1.4 for photons and 5.3 for beta particles. Dose rates for alpha-emitting radionuclides are identical for each method as full energy absorption in source tissue is assumed. The voxel procedure includes contributions to dose from organ-to-organ irradiation (shown here to comprise 2–50% of total dose from photons and 0–93% of total dose from beta particles) that is not specifically quantified in the ellipsoidal approach. Overall, the voxel models provide robust dosimetry for the nonhuman mammals considered in this study, and though the level of detail is likely extraneous to demonstrating regulatory compliance today, voxel models may nevertheless be advantageous in resolving ongoing questions regarding the effects of ionizing radiation on wildlife.
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Vol. 184 • No. 4