Siren sounds on nuclear fallout embedded in melting glaciers

The team found manmade radioactive material in all 17 glaciers sites they surveyed
The team found manmade radioactive material in all 17 glaciers sites they surveyed

Radioactive fallout from nuclear meltdowns and weapons testing is nestled in glaciers across the world, scientists said Wednesday, warning of a potentially hazardous time bomb as rising temperatures melt the icy residue.

For the first time, an international team of scientists has studied the presence of nuclear fallout in ice surface sediments on glaciers across the Arctic, Iceland the Alps, Caucasus mountains, British Columbia and Antarctica.

It found manmade radioactive material at all 17 survey sites, often at concentrations at least 10 times higher than levels elsewhere.

"They are some of the highest levels you see in the environment outside nuclear exclusion zones," said Caroline Clason, a lecturer in Physical Geography at the University of Plymouth.

When radioactive material is released into the atmosphere, it falls to earth as , some of which is absorbed by plants and soil.

But when it falls as snow and settles in the ice, it forms heavier sediment which collects in glaciers, concentrating the levels of nuclear residue.

The Chernobyl disaster of 1986—by far the most devastating nuclear accident to date—released vast clouds of radioactive material including Caesium into the atmosphere, causing widespread contamination and acid rain across northern Europe for weeks afterwards.

"Radioactive particles are very light so when they are taken up into the atmosphere they can be transported a very long way," she told AFP.

"When it falls as rain, like after Chernobyl, it washes away and it's sort of a one-off event. But as snow, it stays in the ice for decades and as it melts in response to the climate it's then washed downstream."

The of this has been shown in recent years, as wild boar meat in Sweden was found to contain more than 10 times the safe levels of Caesium.

The Chernobyl disaster of 1986 caused widespread radioactive contamination and acid rain across northern Europe
The Chernobyl disaster of 1986 caused widespread radioactive contamination and acid rain across northern Europe

'A mark we've left'

Clason said her team had detected some fallout from the Fukushima meltdown in 2011, but stressed that much of the particles from that particular disaster had yet to collect on the ice sediment.

As well as disasters, radioactive material produced from weapons testing was also detected at several research sites.

"We're talking about weapons testing from the 1950s and 1960s onwards, going right back in the development of the bomb," she said. "If we take a sediment core you can see a clear spike where Chernobyl was, but you can also see quite a defined spike in around 1963 when there was a period of quite heavy weapons testing."

One of the most potentially hazardous residues of human nuclear activity is Americium, which is produced when Plutonium decays.

Whereas Plutonium has a half-life of 14 years, Americium lasts 400.

"Americium is more soluble in the environment and it is a stronger alpha (radiation) emitter. Both of those things are bad in terms of uptake into the food chain," said Clason.

While there is little data available on how these materials can be passed down the —even potentially to humans—Clason said there was no doubt that Americium is "particularly dangerous".

As geologists look for markers of the epoch when mankind directly impacted the health of the planet—known as the Anthropocene—Clason and her team believe that radioactive particles in ice, soil and sediment could be an important indicator.

"These materials are a product of what we have put into the atmosphere. This is just showing that our nuclear legacy hasn't disappeared yet, it's still there," Clason said.

"And it's important to study that because ultimately it's a mark of what we have left in the environment."


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© 2019 AFP

Citation: Siren sounds on nuclear fallout embedded in melting glaciers (2019, April 10) retrieved 18 June 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2019-04-siren-nuclear-fallout-embedded-glaciers.html
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User comments

Apr 10, 2019
Another calamity brought to us by scientists, just gotta love the buggers for their ignorance.

Apr 10, 2019
Another calamity brought to us by scientists, just gotta love the buggers for their ignorance.


A bit rich coming from a Velikovskian cultist!

Apr 10, 2019
So now in order to scare people into do something about climate change, we are resorting to using nuclear radiation? That might be a bit difficult to do without sourcing to the original study...

Apr 10, 2019
https://meltingpl...lason86/

Here's a blog done by the researcher named in the article for anyone interested.

Apr 10, 2019
The Earth is not warming tho.

Apr 10, 2019
The Earth is not warming tho.


According to whom? Link to the scientific literature, please.

Apr 10, 2019
Earth is definitely warming. Ice is not "normal" on Earth. Anyhow, here is a bona fide analysis that finds our present-day warming is due to natural variability.
https://www.clim-...2013.pdf
Enjoy!

Apr 10, 2019
What happened to Europe's fertility rates after the Chernobyl disaster of 1986?

Apr 10, 2019
From Anonym's article
This does not rule out a
warming by anthropogenic influences such as an increase of
atmospheric CO2

Apr 11, 2019
I don't understand why there was acid rain after Chernobyl. Why not normal rain? What does it have to do with fission byproducts?

Apr 11, 2019
Earth is definitely warming. Ice is not "normal" on Earth. Anyhow, here is a bona fide analysis that finds our present-day warming is due to natural variability.
https://www.clim-...2013.pdf
Enjoy!

According to it the climate will be cooling in the next years, that can be tested easily so we'll soon know whether it is true.

Apr 11, 2019
Except for Greenland glaciers, those are safer now.

Apr 12, 2019
Yes siree folks. Science at work bringing good things to life.
[: /

Apr 12, 2019
Another calamity brought to us by scientists, just gotta love the buggers for their ignorance.


A bit rich coming from a Velikovskian cultist!
says Castoroil

Velikovsky had WHAT to do with radiation and nuclear bombs?

Apr 12, 2019
Two major studies (not done by Russians) have confirmed that radiation in the Chernobyl area has had minimal impact on wildlife, with no aberrations in higher (and supposedly more heavily-contaminated) animals. Because of this, scientists are investigating whether or not the impact of radiation in specific doses has been overestimated. Having said that, direct ingestion of alpha-emitting radioactive elements is not recommended.

Apr 22, 2019
The above article could have been written more carefully. Those, who did not live during the days of atmospheric testing are unlikely to be familiar with the technical details. The radioactive particles, that got lofted into the atmosphere did not form acid rain. They simply fell out with the normal rain. In general nuclear weapons radioactive particles tend to be a bit heaver than most other fine particles in the atmosphere. The half-life of plutonium-239 (Pu239) is a bit over 24,000 years. As a result those particles, containing it represent a potential hazard for at least a half-million years.

It is a shame that climate science denier tribal members chose to dump their hate for scientists here. Perhaps they are tired of hearing their grave warnings. We now live in an age where it is becoming increasingly fashionable to smear the work of all scientists.

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