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Assessing the long-term consequences of nuclear waste dumping in the Arctic

ARMARA is a project, funded by the Commission under the Nuclear Fission Safety research programme, which aims to assess the long-term effects of nuclear waste dumping in the Kara and Barents Seas by the former Soviet Union.

The project was launched in early 1996, and involves...
ARMARA is a project, funded by the Commission under the Nuclear Fission Safety research programme, which aims to assess the long-term effects of nuclear waste dumping in the Kara and Barents Seas by the former Soviet Union.

The project was launched in early 1996, and involves ten research institutes from the EU and three from Norway, coordinated by the Department of Experimental Physics of University College Dublin. The project has conducted a number of model-directed sampling campaigns in the Arctic Seas, collecting extensive data on radionuclide contamination and transfer mechanisms, which has been interpreted and used to refine and validate an advanced compartmental model of radionuclide dispersal. This work will allow the prediction of likely short and long-term doses to man, and provide clear scientific guidelines for decision-makers should remedial action or counter measures be needed.

Within the Arctic, the St Anna/Voronin Trough has been identified as a key region for water mass exchange between the Arctic Shelf and the Central Arctic Ocean. In time, radioactive material leaching from dumped nuclear reactors and other nuclear debris in the Kara Sea will be advected through this zone. Data on plutonium concentrations in filtered surface and sub-surface water collected along a latitudinal section across these troughs in summer 1996 show no evidence of enhanced plutonium concentrations arising from the dumped material. The data do show, however, the injection in a North-South direction through the St Anna Trough of modified Atlantic water labelled with significantly higher plutonium concentrations. The data confirms the long-range transport of plutonium in the dissolved phase, probably as a combination of plutonium in true solution with a smaller fraction in colloidal form. Work in the field and laboratory is continuing, with the project due to be completed in June 1999.

Source: European Commission, DG XII

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