[Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, full page: (LINK). Abstract, edited.]
Radiation maps of ocean sediment from the Castle Bravo crater
Emlyn W. Hughes, Monica Rouco Molina, Maveric K. I. L. Abella, Ivana Nikolić-Hughes, and Malvin A. Ruderman
PNAS first published July 15, 2019 / DOI: https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1903478116
Contributed by Malvin A. Ruderman, May 14, 2019 (sent for review March 1, 2019; reviewed by David Kawall and Yury G. Kolomensky)
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High-yield thermonuclear explosions cause enormous radioactive contamination to the environment. These “hydrogen bombs,” when tested on small islands in the ocean, vaporize the land and produce radionuclides that settle in the ocean sediment. Even decades later, significant contamination may remain in the sediment surface and deep into the sediment layers. Measuring the radioactive contamination of the crater sediment is a first step in assessing the overall impact of nuclear weapons testing on the ocean ecosystems. We find radiation levels orders of magnitude above background for plutonium-(239,240), americium-241, and bismuth-207 in the top 25 cm of sediment across the entire Bravo bomb crater, the location of the largest aboveground US nuclear weapons test.
On March 1, 1954, the United States conducted its largest thermonuclear weapon test in Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands; the detonation was code-named “Castle Bravo.” Radioactive deposits in the ocean sediment at the bomb crater are widespread and high levels of contamination remain today. One hundred thirty cores were collected from the top 25 cm of surface sediment at ocean depths approaching 60 m over a ∼2-km2 area, allowing for a presentation of radiation maps of the Bravo crater site. Radiochemical analyses were performed on the following radionuclides: plutonium-(239,240), plutonium-238, americium-241, bismuth-207, and cesium-137. Large values of plutonium-(239,240), americium-241, and bismuth-207 are found. Comparisons are made to core sample results from other areas in the northern Marshall Islands.
Bravo crater – Bikini Island – cesium-137 – ocean sediment – plutonium
Keywords: Environmental pollution; Environmental disasters; Radiations; Radionuclides; Marshall Islands.