Accumulation of Sellafield-derived radiocarbon (14C) in Irish Sea and West of Scotland intertidal shells and sediments

Tierney, K. M. , Muir, G. P.K. , Cook, G. T. , MacKinnon, G. , Howe, J. A., Heymans, J. J. and Xu, S. (2016) Accumulation of Sellafield-derived radiocarbon (14C) in Irish Sea and West of Scotland intertidal shells and sediments. Journal of Environmental Radioactivity, 151(1), pp. 321-327. (doi:10.1016/j.jenvrad.2015.10.029)

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Abstract

The nuclear energy industry produces radioactive waste at various stages of the fuel cycle. In the United Kingdom, spent fuel is reprocessed at the Sellafield facility in Cumbria on the north west coast of England. Waste generated at the site comprises a wide range of radionuclides including radiocarbon (14C) which is disposed of in various forms including highly soluble inorganic carbon within the low level liquid radioactive effluent, via pipelines into the Irish Sea. This 14C is rapidly incorporated into the dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) reservoir and marine calcifying organisms, e.g. molluscs, readily utilise DIC for shell formation. This study investigated a number of sites located in Irish Sea and West of Scotland intertidal zones. Results indicate 14C enrichment above ambient background levels in shell material at least as far as Port Appin, 265 km north of Sellafield. Of the commonly found species (blue mussel (Mytilus edulis), common cockle (Cerastoderma edule) and common periwinkle (Littorina littorea)), mussels were found to be the most highly enriched in 14C due to the surface environment they inhabit and their feeding behaviour. Whole mussel shell activities appear to have been decreasing in response to reduced discharge activities since the early 2000s but in contrast, there is evidence of continuing enrichment of the carbonate sediment component due to in-situ shell erosion, as well as indications of particle transport of fine 14C-enriched material close to Sellafield.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:The work was funded by NERC, grant number NE/L000202/1 to Gordon Cook, Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre.
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Tierney, Kieran Michael and Cook, Professor Gordon and Xu, Dr Sheng and Muir, Dr Graham and MacKinnon, Dr Gillian
Authors: Tierney, K. M., Muir, G. P.K., Cook, G. T., MacKinnon, G., Howe, J. A., Heymans, J. J., and Xu, S.
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre
Journal Name:Journal of Environmental Radioactivity
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:0265-931X
ISSN (Online):1879-1700
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2015 Elsevier
First Published:First published in Journal of Environmental Radioactivity 151(1):321-327
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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