The radioactive isotope 129I, with a half-life of 1.57 × 107 years, is widely used as a tracer to assess nuclear safety, to track environmental and geological events and to figure out the details of the stable iodine geochemical cycle. This work investigated the 129I and 127I distribution in water samples collected from the terrestrial (rivers, lakes and springs) and marine water systems (estuary and sea) in China. The measured 129I concentrations of (1–51) × 106 atoms/L and 129I/127I ratios of (0.03–21) × 10−10 shows the variability of 129I level in the water systems. The local permafrost and seasonal frozen environment play a key role in groundwater recharge in the Qinghai-Tibet region, which is reflected in the 129I distribution in surface water. The depth distribution of 129I in the water column of the South China Sea reflects the effluence of different currents. The results also indicate that the hydrosphere of China contains one to three orders of magnitude less 129I compared to those reported in Europe. Despite the large distance, the European nuclear fuel reprocessing facilities represent the major source of 129I in the hydrosphere of China through atmospheric transport. The contribution of the Fukushima nuclear accident to 129I levels in the hydrosphere of China was negligible.
- China Sea