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Anthropogenic 236U in the North Sea – A Closer Look into a Source Region

Christl, Marcus, Casacuberta, Núria, Lachner, Johannes, Herrmann, Jürgen, Synal, Hans-Arno
Environmental Science & Technology 2017 v.51 no.21 pp. 12146-12153
data collection, environmental science, freshwater, radionuclides, rivers, seawater, statistical models, surface water, uranium, Atlantic Ocean, Baltic Sea, France, Great Britain, North Sea
In this study we present new seawater data of ²³⁶U and ²³⁸U sampled in the North Sea in 2010. The North Sea has been and is still receiving a considerable input of anthropogenic radionuclides from nuclear reprocessing facilities located in La Hague (France) and Sellafield (Great Britain). It therefore represents an important source region for oceanographic tracer studies using the transient signal of anthropogenic ²³⁶U. A proper knowledge of the sources of ²³⁶U is an essential prerequisite for such tracer studies. The ²³⁶U data set presented in this study covers the transition regions of the North Sea to the Atlantic Ocean, to the Baltic Sea, and upstream the Elbe River. It is discussed in the context of available ²³⁶U data from the literature. Our results show that both ²³⁶U concentrations and ²³⁶U/²³⁸U ratios in surface waters of the North Sea can be explained by simple binary mixing models implying that ²³⁶U behaves conservatively in seawater. We further show that the input of ²³⁶U by the Elbe River is negligible, while there might be a maximum input of 12 g/yr via the Baltic Sea. The results of the mixing models suggest that this still unidentified ²³⁶U contamination could be supplied by fresh water input.