19
Mon, Feb

Radioactivity Lingers from 1946-1958 Nuclear Bomb Tests

Typography

Scientists have found lingering radioactivity in the lagoons of remote Marshall Island atolls in the Pacific Ocean where the United States conducted 66 nuclear weapons tests in the 1940s and 1950s.

 

Scientists have found lingering radioactivity in the lagoons of remote Marshall Island atolls in the Pacific Ocean where the United States conducted 66 nuclear weapons tests in the 1940s and 1950s.
 

Radioactivity levels at Bikini and Enewetak Atolls were extensively studied in the decades after the testing ended, but there has been relatively little work conducted there recently. A team of scientists from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) reported that levels of radioactive cesium and plutonium have decreased since the 1970s, but these elements continue to be released into the Pacific Ocean from seafloor sediments and lagoon waters. 

The levels of plutonium are 100 or more times higher in lagoon waters compared to the surrounding Pacific Ocean and about two times higher for a radioactive form of cesium. Despite these enrichments, they do not exceed U.S. and international water quality standards set to protect human health, the scientists reported Oct. 30, 2017, in the journal Science of the Total Environment.

Continue reading at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Photo: WHOI geochemist Ken Buesseler carries a hand-held Geiger counter as he prepares to ascend the Runit Domea 350-foot-wide concrete lid built to contain radioactive contaminated material from nuclear weapons tests. The dome rises ten feet above sea level.

(Photo courtesy of Ken Buesseler, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)