Transport of Sellafield-derived C-14 from the Irish Sea through the North Channel

Gulliver, P. , Cook, G.T., MacKenzie, A.B., Naysmith, P. and Anderson, R. (2001) Transport of Sellafield-derived C-14 from the Irish Sea through the North Channel. Radiocarbon, 43(2B), pp. 869-877.

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Abstract

Since the early 1950s, the Sellafield nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in Northwest England has released radio-carbon into the Irish Sea in a mainly inorganic form as part of its authorized liquid effluent discharge. In contrast to the trend in which the activities of most radionuclides in the Sellafield liquid effluent have decreased substantially, C-14 discharges have increased since 1994-95. This has largely been due to a policy change favoring marine discharges over atmospheric discharges. C-14 is radiologically important due to its long half life, mobility in the environment, and propensity for entering the food chain. Current models for radionuclide dispersal in the Irish Sea are based on a reversible equilibrium distribution coefficient (k(d)), an approach which has been shown to be inadequate for C-14. Development of predictive models for the fate of Sellafield-derived C-14 requires a thorough understanding of the biogeochemical fluxes between different carbon reservoirs and the processes controlling the net flux of C-14 out of the Irish Sea, through he North Channel. In this study., both an empirical and a halving time approach indicate that close to 100% of the C-14 that is discharged from Sellafield is dispersed beyond the Irish Sea on a time-scale of months in the form of DIC, with little transfer to the PIC, POC, and DOC fractions, indicating that the "dilute and disperse" mechanism is operating satisfactorily. This is consistent with previous research that indicated little transfer of C-14 to Irish Sea sediments, While significant C-14 enhancements have been observed in the biota of the Irish Sea, this observation is not necessarily in conflict with either of the above as the total biomass has to be taken into account in any calculations of C-14 retention within the Irish Sea.

Item Type:Articles
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Cook, Professor Gordon and Naysmith, Mr Philip and MacKenzie, Professor Angus and Anderson, Mr Robert and Gulliver, Dr Pauline
Authors: Gulliver, P., Cook, G.T., MacKenzie, A.B., Naysmith, P., and Anderson, R.
Subjects:T Technology > TD Environmental technology. Sanitary engineering
T Technology > TK Electrical engineering. Electronics Nuclear engineering
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre
Journal Name:Radiocarbon
Publisher:University of Arizona
ISSN:0033-8222
Copyright Holders:© 2001 by the Arizona Board of Regents on behalf of the University of Arizona
First Published:First published in Radiocarbon 43(2B):869-877
Publisher Policy:Reproduced with the permission of the Publisher.

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