Arctic Ocean sea ice drift origin derived from artificial radionuclides

P. Cámara-Mor, P. Masqué, J. Garcia-Orellana, J. K. Cochran, J. L. Mas, E. Chamizo, C. Hanfland

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14 Citations (Scopus)


Since the 1950s, nuclear weapon testing and releases from the nuclear industry have introduced anthropogenic radionuclides into the sea, and in many instances their ultimate fate are the bottom sediments. The Arctic Ocean is one of the most polluted in this respect, because, in addition to global fallout, it is impacted by regional fallout from nuclear weapon testing, and indirectly by releases from nuclear reprocessing facilities and nuclear accidents. Sea-ice formed in the shallow continental shelves incorporate sediments with variable concentrations of anthropogenic radionuclides that are transported through the Arctic Ocean and are finally released in the melting areas. In this work, we present the results of anthropogenic radionuclide analyses of sea-ice sediments (SIS) collected on five cruises from different Arctic regions and combine them with a database including prior measurements of these radionuclides in SIS. The distribution of 137Cs and 239,240Pu activities and the 240Pu/239Pu atom ratio in SIS showed geographical differences, in agreement with the two main sea ice drift patterns derived from the mean field of sea-ice motion, the Transpolar Drift and Beaufort Gyre, with the Fram Strait as the main ablation area. A direct comparison of data measured in SIS samples against those reported for the potential source regions permits identification of the regions from which sea ice incorporates sediments. The 240Pu/239Pu atom ratio in SIS may be used to discern the origin of sea ice from the Kara-Laptev Sea and the Alaskan shelf. However, if the 240Pu/239Pu atom ratio is similar to global fallout, it does not provide a unique diagnostic indicator of the source area, and in such cases, the source of SIS can be constrained with a combination of the 137Cs and 239,240Pu activities. Therefore, these anthropogenic radionuclides can be used in many instances to determine the geographical source area of sea-ice. © 2010 Elsevier B.V.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3349-3358
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Issue number16
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2010


  • 137 Cs
  • 239,240 Pu
  • 240 239 Pu/ Pu atom ratio
  • Arctic Ocean
  • Geotraces
  • Sea ice origin
  • Sea-ice sediments


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