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Volume 4, Pages 460-481
Short Review

Plutonium in the Arctic Marine Environment — A Short Review

Department of Plant and Environmental Science, Agricultural University of Norway, Norway

Received 3 March 2004; Revised 27 May 2004; Accepted 2 June 2004

Academic Editor: Pavel Povinec

Copyright © 2004 Lindis¬†Skipperud.


Anthropogenic plutonium has been introduced into the environment over the past 50 years as the result of the detonation of nuclear weapons and operational releases from the nuclear industry. In the Arctic environment, the main source of plutonium is from atmospheric weapons testing, which has resulted in a relatively uniform, underlying global distribution of plutonium. Previous studies of plutonium in the Kara Sea have shown that, at certain sites, other releases have given rise to enhanced local concentrations. Since different plutonium sources are characterised by distinctive plutonium-isotope ratios, evidence of a localised influence can be supported by clear perturbations in the plutonium-isotope ratio fingerprints as compared to the known ratio in global fallout. In Kara Sea sites, such perturbations have been observed as a result of underwater weapons tests at Chernaya Bay, dumped radioactive waste in Novaya Zemlya, and terrestrial runoff from the Ob and Yenisey Rivers. Measurement of the plutonium-isotope ratios offers both a means of identifying the origin of radionuclide contamination and the influence of the various nuclear installations on inputs to the Arctic, as well as a potential method for following the movement of water and sediment loads in the rivers.