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 Preservation of floodplains is flood protection
27.09.2017 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Conservationists are sounding the alarm: parrots much more threatened than assumed
15.09.2017 | Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen

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: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Electrode materials from the microwave oven

19.10.2017 | Materials Sciences

New material for digital memories of the future

19.10.2017 | Materials Sciences

Physics boosts artificial intelligence methods

19.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>