Standard Article

Arctic Ocean: Radionuclides

  1. Agata Zaborska1,
  2. JoLynn Carroll2

Published Online: 15 JUN 2010

DOI: 10.1002/0470862106.ia747

Encyclopedia of Inorganic Chemistry

Encyclopedia of Inorganic Chemistry

How to Cite

Zaborska, A. and Carroll, J. 2010. Arctic Ocean: Radionuclides. Encyclopedia of Inorganic Chemistry. .

Author Information

  1. 1

    Institute of Oceanology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Sopot, Poland

  2. 2

    Akvaplan-niva, Polar Environmental Centre, Tromsø, Norway

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 JUN 2010


This article presents an overview of the major sources, transport pathways, and fate of anthropogenic radionuclides in the Arctic marine environment. The dominant anthropogenic radionuclides present in Arctic seawater, sediments, and marine biota are cesium-137 (137Cs), plutonium-239 (239Pu), plutonium-240 (240Pu), technetium-99 (99Tc), and strontium-90 (90Sr). Major sources contributing to the inventory of radionuclides in the Arctic Ocean and surrounding shelf seas include atmospheric fallout, European nuclear reprocessing facilities, the Chernobyl accident, and discharges from major Arctic rivers. Anthropogenic radionuclides from these sources are supplied to and redistributed within the Arctic Ocean via atmospheric, sea ice, currents, sediment, and river transport pathways. With the exception of a few locations, e.g., the underwater nuclear test site at Chernaya Bay, sediment, seawater, and biota activity concentrations in the Arctic are today very low, posing negligible biological and human-health risks. However, the rate of warming of the Arctic is three times faster than other parts of the globe, raising the prospect of significant reorganization of system properties and processes with consequent changes to both the sources and fate of radionuclides in the Arctic in the decades to come.


  • Arctic Ocean;
  • seawater;
  • sea ice;
  • sediments;
  • Arctic biota;
  • Arctic ecosystem;
  • radionuclides;
  • plutonium;
  • cesium;
  • technetium;
  • strontium