Ecosystem uptake and transfer of Sellafield-derived radiocarbon (14c). Part 1. The Irish Sea

Graham Muir, Kieran M. Tierney, Gordon Cook, Gillian MacKinnon, John Howe, Johanna Heymans, David Hughes, Sheng Xu

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Abstract

Ecosystem uptake and transfer processes of Sellafield-derived radiocarbon (14C) within the Irish Sea were examined. Highly variable activities in sediment, seawater and biota indicate complex 14C dispersal and uptake dynamics. All east basin biota exhibited 14C enrichments above ambient background while most west basin biota had 14C activities close to background, although four organisms including two slow-moving species were significantly enriched. The western Irish Sea gyre is a suggested pathway for transfer of 14C to the west basin and retention therein. Despite ongoing Sellafield 14C discharges, organic sediments near Sellafield were significantly less enriched than associated benthic organisms. Rapid scavenging of labile, 14C-enriched organic material by organisms and mixing to depth of 14C-enriched detritus arriving at the sediment/water interface are proposed mechanisms to explain this. All commercially important fish, crustaceans and molluscs showed 14C enrichments above background; however, the radiation dose from their consumption is extremely low and radiologically insignificant.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)792-804
Number of pages12
JournalMarine Pollution Bulletin
Volume114
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jan 2017

Keywords

  • Sellafield
  • Radiocarbon (14C)
  • Irish Sea
  • Biotic uptake
  • Seawater
  • Sediment

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