• The Behavior of Sellafield-Derived 14C in the Northeast Irish Sea

      Wolstenholme, Anne; Cook, G. T.; MacKenzie, A. B.; Naysmith, Philip; Meadows, P. S.; McDonald, Paul (Department of Geosciences, The University of Arizona, 1998-01-01)
      Radiocarbon is an important constituent of the low level, liquid, radioactive effluent discharged from the Sellafield nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in northwest England, but despite the fact that it gives the highest collective dose commitment of all the nuclides in the waste, its behavior in the Irish Sea is poorly defined. There is therefore a clear requirement for an improved understanding of 14C behavior in the Irish Sea, to assist with dose evaluation modeling and definition of the mixing and accumulation characteristics of the sediment in this area. In this context, results are presented here for a temporal study of 14C activities in four geochemical fractions of seawater and in a sediment core from the vicinity of the Sellafield effluent outfall. Clear 14C enrichments in the dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) and particulate organic carbon (POC) components of seawater were observed, with temporal trends in activity that were related to variations in the Sellafield discharge. Smaller, but nevertheless detectable, enrichments were also observed for particulate inorganic carbon (PIC) and dissolved organic carbon (DOC) in the seawater. The distribution of 137Cs and 241Am revealed that the sediment core could be classified into three zones in which the intensity of mixing decreased discontinuously with depth. Bulk carbonate 14C analyses of the core demonstrated the presence of glacial or pre-glacial carbonate in the system, but failed to show any evidence of contaminant 14C input or provide information on sediment accumulation processes. In contrast, analysis of bulk organic matter from the sediment provided clear evidence of the recent perturbation of a well mixed system by input of younger material, consistent with the recent input of contaminant 14C from Sellafield and possibly weapons testing fallout.