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Iodine-129 in Snow and Seawater in the Antarctic: Level and Source

Xing, Shan, Hou, Xiaolin, Aldahan, Ala, Possnert, Göran, Shi, Keliang, Yi, Peng, Zhou, Weijian
Environmental Science & Technology 2015 v.49 no.11 pp. 6691-6700
anthropogenic activities, chemical speciation, humans, pollutants, seawater, snow, Antarctic region, Antarctica, Europe
Anthropogenic ¹²⁹I has been released to the environment in different ways and chemical species by human nuclear activities since the 1940s. These sources provide ideal tools to trace the dispersion of volatile pollutants in the atmosphere. Snow and seawater samples collected in Bellingshausen, Amundsen, and Ross Seas in Antarctica in 2011 were analyzed for ¹²⁹I and ¹²⁷I, including organic forms; it was observed that ¹²⁹I/¹²⁷I atomic ratios in the Antarctic surface seawater ((6.1–13) × 10–¹²) are about 2 orders of magnitude lower than those in the Antarctic snow ((6.8–9.5) × 10–¹⁰), but 4–6 times higher than the prenuclear level (1.5 × 10–¹²), indicating a predominantly anthropogenic source of ¹²⁹I in the Antarctic environment. The ¹²⁹I level in snow in Antarctica is 2–4 orders of magnitude lower than that in the Northern Hemisphere, but is not significantly higher than that observed in other sites in the Southern Hemisphere. This feature indicates that ¹²⁹I in Antarctic snow mainly originates from atmospheric nuclear weapons testing from 1945 to 1980; resuspension and re-emission of the fallout ¹²⁹I in the Southern Hemisphere maintains the ¹²⁹I level in the Antarctic atmosphere. ¹²⁹I directly released to the atmosphere and re-emitted marine discharged ¹²⁹I from reprocessing plants in Europe might not significantly disperse to Antarctica.