Radon emanation from the soil varies with soil type and with surface uranium content, so outdoor radon concentrations can be used to track air masses to a limited degree. This fact has been put to use by some atmospheric scientists. Because of radon’s rapid loss to air and comparatively rapid decay, radon is used in hydrologic research that studies the interaction between ground water and streams. Any significant concentration of radon in a stream is a good indicator that there are local inputs of ground water. Radon is also used in the dating of oil-containing soils because radon has a high affinity for oil-like substances.
Radon soil-concentration has been used in an experimental way to map buried close-subsurface geological faults because concentrations are generally higher over the faults. Similarly, it has found some limited use in prospecting for geothermal gradients. Some researchers have also looked at elevated soil-gas radon concentrations, or rapid changes in soil or groundwater radon concentrations, for earthquake prediction. The theory is that compression around a fault about to rupture could produce radon emission, as if the ground were being squeezed like a sponge. In the 1970s and 1980s, scientific measurements of radon emissions near faults found that earthquakes often occurred with no radon signal, and radon was often detected with no earthquake to follow. It was then dismissed by many as an unreliable indicator. However, as of 2009, it is under investigation as a possible precursor by NASA.
Radon is a known pollutant emitted from geothermal power stations, though it disperses rapidly, and no radiological hazard has been demonstrated in various investigations. The trend in geothermal plants is to reinject all emissions by pumping deep underground, and this seems likely to ultimately decrease such radon hazards further.
In the 1950s, radon was used in industrial radiography.
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