A numerical model, previously validated with other radionuclides, was applied to simulate the dispersion of 236U released from European nuclear fuel reprocessing plants in the North Atlantic and Shelf Seas using a published reconstruction of Sellafield and La Hague releases. Model results are in better agreement with observations if the lowest estimation of such releases are used. This implies that approximately 40kg of 236U has been discharged from Sellafield. It was found that adsorption of 236U on bed sediments of the shallow European Shelf Seas plays an essential role in its dispersion patterns. This contrasts strongly with the more conservative behaviour of 129I in the same area. This has two important implications in the use of 236U as oceanographic tracer; i) special care must be taken in coastal areas, as sediments might act as sinks and sources of 236U; ii) the annual input function of 236U into the Arctic is not directly controlled by the annual discharges from Sellafield and La Hague, since sediments from the Irish, Celtic and North Sea modulate and smooth the signal. Only 52% of the total releases enter into the Arctic Ocean.
Science of the Total Environment – Elsevier
Published: Jun 1, 2018
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