An unknown source of reactor radionuclides in the Baltic Sea revealed by multi-isotope fingerprints

Jixin Qiao, Haitao Zhang, Peter Steier, Karin Hain, Xiaolin Hou, Vesa Pekka Vartti, Gideon M. Henderson, Mats Eriksson, Ala Aldahan, Göran Possnert, Robin Golser

We present an application of multi-isotopic fingerprints (i.e., 236U/238U, 233U/236U, 236U/129I and 129I/127I) for the discovery of previously unrecognized sources of anthropogenic radioactivity. Our data indicate a source of reactor 236U in the Baltic Sea in addition to inputs from the two European reprocessing plants and global fallout. This additional reactor 236U may come from unreported discharges from Swedish nuclear research facilities as supported by high 236U levels in sediment nearby Studsvik, or from accidental leakages of spent nuclear fuel disposed on the Baltic seafloor, either reported or unreported. Such leakages would indicate problems with the radiological safety of seafloor disposal, and may be accompanied by releases of other radionuclides. The results demonstrate the high sensitivity of multi-isotopic tracer systems, especially the 233U/236U signature, to distinguish environmental emissions of unrevealed radioactive releases for nuclear safeguards, emergency preparedness and environmental tracer studies.

Isotope Physics
External organisation(s)
Technical University of Denmark (DTU), Northwest Institute of Nuclear Technology, Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority, University of Oxford, Linköping University, Swedish Radiation Safety Authority, United Arab Emirates University, Uppsala University
Nature Communications
No. of pages
Publication date
Peer reviewed
Austrian Fields of Science 2012
103014 Nuclear physics, 103030 Radiation physics, 103037 Environmental physics
ASJC Scopus subject areas
Chemistry(all), Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all), Physics and Astronomy(all)
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