Sources of radioactivity in the ocean environment: from low-level waste to nuclear-powered submarines

by Kenneth A. Solomon

Purchase Print Copy

 FormatList Price Price
Add to Cart Paperback14 pages $20.00 $16.00 20% Web Discount

This paper discusses both natural and man-made radioactivity in the marine environment. Radioactivity occurs naturally in both the sea water and in the ocean sediment. Radioactivity in the sea water is fairly uniform geographically and is dominated by potassium-40, a naturally occurring isotope. Unlike sea water, sediment radiation levels vary with sediment type and location. The deposition of insoluble thorium isotopes formed by the decay of water-soluble uranium is the primary source of natural radiation in the sediment. Man-made sources of radioactivity, in descending order of importance, are: (1) the sinking of two U.S. and two Soviet nuclear submarines; (2) fallout from nuclear weapons testing; (3) dumping of primarily British and American low-level nuclear waste; and (4) dumping of radiated effluents from the British Windscale reprocessing facility and other European and Indian reprocessing facilities.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Paper series. The paper was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1948 to 2003 that captured speeches, memorials, and derivative research, usually prepared on authors' own time and meant to be the scholarly or scientific contribution of individual authors to their professional fields. Papers were less formal than reports and did not require rigorous peer review.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.