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Evidence for tritium persistence as organically bound forms in river sediments since the past nuclear weapon tests

Abstract : Tritium of artificial origin was initially introduced to the environment from the global atmospheric fallout after nuclear weapons tests. Its level was increased in rainwaters by a factor 1000 during peak emissions in 1963 within the whole northern hemisphere. Here we demonstrate that tritium from global atmospheric fallout stored in sedimentary reservoir for decades as organically bound forms in recalcitrant organic matter while tritium released by nuclear industries in rivers escape from such storages. Additionally, we highlight that organically bound tritium concentrations in riverine sediments culminate several years after peaking emission in the atmosphere due to the transit time of organic matter from soils to river systems. these results were acquired by measuring both free and bound forms of tritium in a 70 year old sedimentary archive cored in the Loire river basin (France). Such tritium storages, assumed to be formed at the global scale, as well as the decadal time lag of tritium contamination levels between atmosphere and river systems have never been demonstrated until now. our results bring new lights on tritium persistence and dynamics within the environment and demonstrate that sedimentary reservoir constitute both tritium sinks and potential delayed sources of mobile and bioavailable tritium for freshwaters and living organisms decades after atmospheric contamination.
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Contributor : Yoann Copard <>
Submitted on : Wednesday, December 23, 2020 - 8:53:57 AM
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Frederique Eyrolle, Yoann Copard, Hugo Lepage, Cécile Grosbois, Loic Ducros, et al.. Evidence for tritium persistence as organically bound forms in river sediments since the past nuclear weapon tests. Scientific Reports, Nature Publishing Group, 2019, 9, pp.11487. ⟨10.1038/s41598-019-47821-1⟩. ⟨hal-02423025⟩

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