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Noshkin Victor E.
Health Physics: June 1972
Papers: PDF Only

The available data concerning the dissemination of plutonium and other transu-ranics in the aquatic environment are drawn together for appraisal. The most studied isotope has been 238Pu derived from worldwide fallout. Essentially all the published work has been con-cerned with levels in the marine environment where plutonium is found widespread among planktonic, pelagic and benthic organisms. The concentrations are higher in organisms feeding on sediment or on surfaces than in those drawing largely on the water itself. Among the species where data are available are a variety of convenient “indicator organisms” for plutonium. There is some evidence that plutonium concentrations are increased in organisms of higher trophic levels. Bone and liver are major repositories for plutonium in marine vertebrates while muscle tissue of both marine vertebrates and invertebrates contain relatively lower concentrations. Plutonium is geochemically separated from both 90Sr and 137Cs in the water column and the sedimentation of 239Pu may be more involved with biological processes than has been found for fallout rare earth isotopes. In marine sediments, as in soils, plutonium is more mobile than was originally expected. What little is known of the behavior of plutonium in the marine environment should be used conservatively to assess the behavior and distribution of new plutonium additions derived from sources other than fallout, and even more conservatively in predicting the impact of other transuranics in the aquatic environment. Considerably more understanding of the aquatic radioecology of several of the elements is a major priority especially since it now appears that when the relative biological effectiveness of alpha vs gamma or beta radiations is considered, fallout 238Pu contributes more than fallout 90Sr or 137Cs to the artificial radiation exposure of many marine species.

©1972Health Physics Society