Radioactive material identified in waters

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  • Sellafield Nuclear Power Station in Britain (Photograph by Dave Thompson/AP)

    Sellafield Nuclear Power Station in Britain (Photograph by Dave Thompson/AP)

Radioactive material produced in Europe has been identified in the waters around Bermuda, although researchers have said the material presents very little danger.

According to research by the Geotraces project, material produced by nuclear reprocessing plants at Sellafield in the UK and La Hague in France, were traced in low concentrations to Bermudian waters.

The research, which was released earlier this month at the Goldschmidt geochemistry conference in Paris, followed the route taken by Iodine-129 as it passed north through the Arctic before drifting through the Atlantic to Bermuda.

The iodine has been tracked as far south as Puerto Rico and researchers believe it will continue to flow into the South Atlantic.

According to Science Daily, the levels of material found are extremely low and not considered dangerous, but researchers are able to use it to track deep ocean currents.

It is hoped the information will help scientists better understand the movements of ocean water and the impact of climate change.

John Smith of the Bedford Institute of Oceanography, the lead researcher on the project, said: “In many ways this is a bit like the old ‘stick in a stream’ game we used to play as kids, where you would drop a buoyant object in the water and observe where it comes out.

“Of course, it would be much better if these markers were not in the ocean at all, but they are, and we can use them to do some important environmental science.”

By tracing the iodine, the researchers were able to confirm how the deep ocean currents flow through the North Atlantic.

Researchers said the iodine travelled 15,000km over a period of about 20 years.

Dr Smith added: “This is the first study to show precise and continuous tracking of Atlantic water.

“The water is flowing northward into the Arctic Ocean off Norway, circulating around the arctic basins and returning to the Nordic seas in what we call the ‘Arctic loop,’ and then flowing southward down the continental slope of North America to Bermuda at depths below 3,000m.”

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Published Aug 23, 2017 at 8:00 am (Updated Aug 23, 2017 at 6:28 am)

Radioactive material identified in waters

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