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Free Content Distributions of nuclear fuel-reprocessing tracers in the Arctic Ocean: Indications of Russian river influence

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Radionuclide sampling in 1986 and 1993 in the Canada Basin, and in 1993 in the Amundsen Basin and on the adjacent Laptev shelf, provides new insights into the origin, timing, pathways, and mechanisms for dispersal of non-fallout radioactive tracers in the Arctic Ocean. First, samples from the Beaufort Sea shelf, slope, and adjacent basin show a four-fold increase in 129I concentrations from 1986 to 1993. Second, anthropogenic non-fallout radionuclide concentrations in the Beaufort Sea increase with proximity to slope boundary currents. Third, there is evidence for riverine contributions of anthropogenic radionuclides to surface waters of the Amundsen Basin and the Laptev continental shelf. This evidence includes high surface water burdens of 237Np and 129I, with the maximum in anthropogenic 129I found in the least saline and most 18O-depleted waters, consistent with an origin in high-latitude runoff. Additionally, the 237Np/129I atom ratios in the Laptev Sea and Amundsen Basin in 1993 were significantly lower than observed elsewhere in the Arctic Ocean and can be reasonably explained by 129I added during transit of the Russian shelves. The 240Pu/239Pu ratios in the water column were mostly near 0.18, consistent both with stratospheric bomb fallout and with the discharged-weighted mean Sellafield ratio during 1966-1985. In the least saline water samples collected at the most shallow Laptev shelf station, however, the Pu ratios were lower, consistent with a non-European nuclear fuel reprocessing source. There are clear secondary maxima in 237Np and 129I near 1000 m in the Amundsen Basin, likely associated with the Barents Sea branch of Atlantic water. Finally, the 129I/salinity and 129I/18O relationships in the Amundsen and Canada Basins at middepths are indistinguishable, suggesting effective horizontal dispersion.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 1999-09-01

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  • The Journal of Marine Research publishes peer-reviewed research articles covering a broad array of topics in physical, biological and chemical oceanography. Articles that deal with processes, as well as those that report significant observations, are welcome. In the area of biology, studies involving coupling between ecological and physical processes are preferred over those that report systematics. Authors benefit from thorough reviews of their manuscripts, where an attempt is made to maximize clarity. The time between submission and publication is kept to a minimum; there is no page charge.
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