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 Despite government claims, orangutan populations have not increased. Call for better monitoring
06.11.2018 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig

nachricht Increasing frequency of ocean storms could alter kelp forest ecosystems
30.10.2018 | University of Virginia

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: A Chip with Blood Vessels

Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.

Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...

Im Focus: A Leap Into Quantum Technology

Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.

In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...

Im Focus: Research icebreaker Polarstern begins the Antarctic season

What does it look like below the ice shelf of the calved massive iceberg A68?

On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.

Im Focus: Penn engineers develop ultrathin, ultralight 'nanocardboard'

When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure

Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...

Im Focus: Coping with errors in the quantum age

Physicists at ETH Zurich demonstrate how errors that occur during the manipulation of quantum system can be monitored and corrected on the fly

The field of quantum computation has seen tremendous progress in recent years. Bit by bit, quantum devices start to challenge conventional computers, at least...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

“3rd Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP 2018” Attracts International Experts and Users

09.11.2018 | Event News

On the brain’s ability to find the right direction

06.11.2018 | Event News

European Space Talks: Weltraumschrott – eine Gefahr für die Gesellschaft?

23.10.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

The dawn of a new era for genebanks - molecular characterisation of an entire genebank collection

13.11.2018 | Life Sciences

Fish recognize their prey by electric colors

13.11.2018 | Life Sciences

Ultrasound Connects

13.11.2018 | Awards Funding

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>