Transport of Sellafield-Derived 14C from the Irish Sea Through the North Channel
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CitationGulliver, P., Cook, G. T., MacKenzie, A. B., Naysmith, P., & Anderson, R. (2001). Transport of Sellafield-derived 14C from the Irish Sea through the North Channel. Radiocarbon, 43(2B), 869-877.
DescriptionFrom the 17th International Radiocarbon Conference held in Jerusalem, Israel, June 18-23, 2000.
AbstractSince the early 1950s, the Sellafield nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in Northwest England has released radiocarbon 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, 14C discharges have increased since 1994–95. This has largely been due to a policy change favoring marine discharges over atmospheric discharges. 14C 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 (kd), an approach which has been shown to be inadequate for 14C. Development of predictive models for the fate of Sellafield-derived 14C requires a thorough understanding of the biogeochemical fluxes between different carbon reservoirs and the processes controlling the net flux of 14C out of the Irish Sea, through the North Channel. In this study, both an empirical and a halving time approach indicate that close to 100% of the 14C 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 14C to Irish Sea sediments. While significant 14C 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 14C retention within the Irish Sea.