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Sci Total Environ. 1997 Aug 25;202(1-3):185-98.

Radioactive contamination from dumped nuclear waste in the Kara Sea--results from the joint Russian-Norwegian expeditions in 1992-1994.

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  • 1Laboratory for Analytical Chemistry, Agricultural University of Norway, Aas, Norway.


Russian-Norwegian expeditions to the Kara Sea and to dumping sites in the fjords of Novaya Zemlya have taken place annually since 1992. In the fjords, dumped objects were localised with sonar and ROV equipped with underwater camera. Enhanced levels of 137Cs, 60Co, 90Sr and 239,240Pu in sediments close to dumped containers in the Abrosimov and Stepovogo fjords demonstrated that leaching from dumped material has taken place. The contamination was inhomogeneously distributed and radioactive particles were identified in the upper 10 cm of the sediments. 137Cs was strongly associated with sediments, while 90Sr was more mobile. The contamination was less pronounced in the areas where objects presumed to be reactor compartments were located. The enhanced level of radionuclides observed in sediments close to the submarine in Stepovogo fjord in 1993 could, however, not be confirmed in 1994. Otherwise, traces of 60Co in sediments were observed in the close vicinity of all localised objects. Thus, the general level of radionuclides in waters, sediments and biota in the fjords is, somewhat higher or similar to that of the open Kara Sea, i.e. significantly lower than in other adjacent marine systems (e.g. Irish Sea, Baltic Sea, North Sea). The main sources contributing to radioactive contamination were global fallout from atmospheric nuclear weapon tests, river transport from Ob and Yenisey, marine transport of discharges from Sellafield, UK and fallout from Chernobyl. Thus, the radiological impact to man and the arctic environment of the observed leakages from dumped radioactive waste today, is considered to be low. Assuming all radionuclides are released from the waste, preliminary assessments indicate a collective dose to the world population of less than 50 man Sv.

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