The Disposal of Radioactive Wastes into the Marine Environment: The Presence of Hot Particles Containing Pu and Am in the Source Term

E. I. Hamilton
Institute for Marine Environmental Research, Prospect Place, The Hoe, Plymouth PL1 3DH, Devon

Abstract: Radioactive particulate matter (identified as hot particles) is present in the effluent discharged by the British Nuclear Fuels Ltd (BNFL) uranium reprocessing plant at Sellafield, Cumbria, UK. There is very little information on the abundance or chemical and physical forms of solid matter in the effluent; even less is known of the significance of particulate debris in relation to the uptake of radionuclides for non-occupationally exposed people as a result of transfer along marine foodchains. Some observations on the occurrence and abundance of hot particles in the vicinity of Sellafield are reported, with special reference to those that contain transuranic radionuclides (Pu,Am,Cm). Some of the uncertainties are discussed in an evaluation of the significance of hot particles, albeit aggregates of colloids for the smallest particles, and exposure to man from ionizing radiation. There is no evidence that hot particles derived from BNFL and subsequently dispersed into the marine environment represent a hazard to man. However, further studies are required in order to determine whether or not the pathways followed by the particles are significant, or different to those of other radionuclides through which the radiation exposure of man within this region of Cumbria is assessed.

Keywords: radioactive waste • marine environment • Sellafield • Cumbria • Irish Sea

Mineralogical Magazine; April 1985 v. 49; no. 351; p. 177-194; DOI: 10.1180/minmag.1985.049.351.05
© 1985, The Mineralogical Society
Mineralogical Society (