Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Radioactive plutonium remains from US military accident in Spain

20.10.2003


Researchers from the Physics Department and the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA) of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona have detected concentrations of radioactive plutonium and americium in plankton from the coast of Palomares (south-east coast of Spain), with an activity level five times higher than the average of other samples taken from the Mediterranean. This is residual contamination from the air accident that occurred on 17 January 1966, when two US military aircraft collided. However, the radioactivity levels are still within safety margins.



Radioactive elements from the marine environment may pass into the human food chain via plankton when marine products are consumed. With the aim of studying this transference, scientists have established the concentrations of radioelements plutonium (Pu-239,240) and americium (Am-241) in plankton samples taken from different areas of the north-west Mediterranean. Specifically, researchers compared samples from the gulf of Vera (in the area of Palomares, Almeria), Garrucha beach (Almeria), Mallorca, the Gulf of Sant Jordi (Baix Ebre, Catalonia), the coast of Barcelona, and the Golf of Lyon (France).

The results of the research clearly show that plankton from the coast of Palomares, obtained from a depth of 50 metres, contains radioactive plutonium and americium with an activity up to five times higher than the average of the other samples studied. Thus, while average radioactivity in western Mediterranean plankton is around 452 units (millibequerels per kilogram of dried plankton), at Palomares this figure is 2,046 units. This is still within the safety margins recommended by the International Atomic Energy Agency, but serves as a reminder that the area is not free of residual contamination arising from the accident that occurred on 17 January 1966, when two US planes, a B-52 bomber, loaded with 4 nuclear warheads, and a refuelling plane collided in mid-flight.


Other sources of radioactive elements present in small quantities in Mediterranean plankton are the remains of nuclear tests carried out between 1952 and 1963 around the world, residues from nuclear power stations, and the Chernobyl accident of 1986. These activities have gradually left radioactive elements in the marine environment which, in simple terms, have been transferred to the phytoplankton (plant plankton), then to the zooplankton (animal plankton), and from here to certain marine products that we consume. Therefore, it is vital that checks are made on radioactivity levels in plankton in order to provide global assurances of the safety of marine products.

This research, directed by the UAB lecturer Joan Albert Sánchez Cabeza, and in which researchers from the Institute of Marine Sciences of Barcelona and two research centres in Eire and the United States have also participated, is published in the journal The Science of the Total Environment.

Octavi López Coronado | alfa
Further information:
http://www.uab.es

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Species may appear deceptively resilient to climate change
24.11.2017 | University of California - Davis

nachricht Scientists team up on study to save endangered African penguins
16.11.2017 | Florida Atlantic University

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New proton record: Researchers measure magnetic moment with greatest possible precision

High-precision measurement of the g-factor eleven times more precise than before / Results indicate a strong similarity between protons and antiprotons

The magnetic moment of an individual proton is inconceivably small, but can still be quantified. The basis for undertaking this measurement was laid over ten...

Im Focus: Frictional Heat Powers Hydrothermal Activity on Enceladus

Computer simulation shows how the icy moon heats water in a porous rock core

Heat from the friction of rocks caused by tidal forces could be the “engine” for the hydrothermal activity on Saturn's moon Enceladus. This presupposes that...

Im Focus: Nanoparticles help with malaria diagnosis – new rapid test in development

The WHO reports an estimated 429,000 malaria deaths each year. The disease mostly affects tropical and subtropical regions and in particular the African continent. The Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC teamed up with the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME and the Institute of Tropical Medicine at the University of Tübingen for a new test method to detect malaria parasites in blood. The idea of the research project “NanoFRET” is to develop a highly sensitive and reliable rapid diagnostic test so that patient treatment can begin as early as possible.

Malaria is caused by parasites transmitted by mosquito bite. The most dangerous form of malaria is malaria tropica. Left untreated, it is fatal in most cases....

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

IceCube experiment finds Earth can block high-energy particles from nuclear reactions

24.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A 'half-hearted' solution to one-sided heart failure

24.11.2017 | Health and Medicine

Heidelberg Researchers Study Unique Underwater Stalactites

24.11.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>