A retrospect of anthropogenic radioactivity in the global marine environment

A. Aarkrog

    Research output: Contribution to journalConference articleResearchpeer-review


    Man-made radionuclides were introduced into the marine environment in the mid forties with the exploitation of nuclear fission for military purposes. Plutonium production reactors at Hanford, USA, released radioactivity to the Pacific Ocean via the Columbia River. In the former Soviet Union (FSU) the military nuclear establishment at Cheliabinsk (later MAYAK) a few years later began direct discharging of fission products to the nearby Techa River, which is a part of the Ob river system, and the Arctic Ocean received man made radioactivity. In the 1950s, when atmospheric testing of thermonuclear weapons commenced, the world ocean became radioactively contaminated. The atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons peaked in the early 1960s and so did the radioactive contamination of the world ocean. In the mid 1970s the authorised liquid discharges, first of all of Cs-137, from the nuclear reprocessing plant Sellafield in the UK reached a maximum and in the following years this signal could be traced all over the NE Atlantic. It was also in the 1970s that the international NEA studies of the radiological impact of sea dumping began. In 1985 the European Union initiated the so-called MARINA project in order to assess the radiological exposure from radioactivity in North European marine waters. In 1986 the Chernobyl accident occurred and the Baltic and the Black Seas in particular were contaminated. In the 1990s military dumping activities carried out previously by the FSU in the Arctic Ocean have been in focus. The IAEA's IASAP study has evaluated the radiological consequences of these dumpings. In a recent international study (MARDOS) by the IAEA it was concluded that the doses to man from anthropogenic radionuclides in the marine environment are generally one to two orders of magnitude less than the doses from such radionuclides in the terrestrial environment.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalRadiation Protection Dosimetry
    Issue number1-4
    Pages (from-to)23-31
    Publication statusPublished - 1998
    EventInternational Symposium on Radionuclides in the Oceans - Octeville-Cherbourg, France
    Duration: 7 Oct 199611 Oct 1996


    ConferenceInternational Symposium on Radionuclides in the Oceans


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