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Book Chapter

The release and persistence of radioactive anthropogenic nuclides

By
Gary J. Hancock
Gary J. Hancock
1
CSIRO Land and Water, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia
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Stephen G. Tims
Stephen G. Tims
2
Department of Nuclear Physics, Research School of Physics and Engineering, The Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia
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L. Keith Fifield
L. Keith Fifield
2
Department of Nuclear Physics, Research School of Physics and Engineering, The Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia
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Ian T. Webster
Ian T. Webster
3
1 Scaddan Place, Curtin, ACT 2605, Australia
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Published:
January 01, 2014

Abstract

Atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons during the period 1945–1980 ushered in the ‘atomic age’ and released large quantities of anthropogenic radiogenic nuclides into the atmosphere. These radionuclides were subsequently deposited as fallout to the entire surface of the planet. While many have decayed to negligible levels, long-lived radionuclides persist and will do so for thousands of years. Isotopes of plutonium, 239Pu (half-life 24 100 years) and 240Pu (half-life 6563 years), provide the best chronological markers for the onset of this anthropogenic event both now and into the future due to their long half-lives, particle-reactivity, and the fact that they were present in negligible quantities prior to anthropogenic production and release. Chronostratigraphic markers established by distinct Pu concentration profiles and Pu isotope changes in sediment sequences and ice and coral cores can provide high-resolution dating over the last 60 years. However, even though fallout has ceased, it is found that the Pu inventory currently held in surface soil layers and the oceans will continue to supply Pu to sediment deposition zones for millennia and centuries, respectively. The delivery of this Pu will depend on soil erosion and bioturbation rates, and the rate of removal of dissolved Pu from the ocean.

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Contents

Geological Society, London, Special Publications

A Stratigraphical Basis for the Anthropocene

C. N. Waters
C. N. Waters
British Geological Survey, UK
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J. A. Zalasiewicz
J. A. Zalasiewicz
University of Leicester, UK
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M. Williams
M. Williams
University of Leicester, UK
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M. Ellis
M. Ellis
British Geological Survey, UK
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A. M. Snelling
A. M. Snelling
British Geological Survey, UK
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Geological Society of London
Volume
395
ISBN electronic:
9781862396715
Publication date:
January 01, 2014

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