Inventory and distribution of tritium in the oceans in 2016

Type Article
Date 2019-03
Language English
Author(s) Oms Pierre-Emmanuel1, 2, Bailly Du Bois Pascal1, Dumas Franck3, Lazure PascalORCID2, Morillon Mehdi1, Voiseux Claire1, Le Corre Cedric4, Cossonnet Catherine4, Solier Luc1, Morin Pascal5
Affiliation(s) 1 : Inst Radioprotect & Surete Nucl, Lab Radioecol Cherbourg Octeville, IRSN PSE ENV SRTE LRC, Rue Max Pol Fouchet,BP 10, F-50130 Octeville, France.
2 : Inst Francais Rech Exploitat Mer, Lab Ocean Cotier, IFREMER PDG ODE LOPS OC, Ctr Bretagne ZI Pointe Diable, F-29280 Plouzane, France.
3 : Serv Hydrograph & Oceanog Maine, SHOM DOPS HOM REC, 13 Rue Chatellier, F-29200 Brest, France.
4 : Inst Radioprotect & Surete Nucl, Lab Metrol Radioact Environm, IRSN PSE ENV SAME LMRE, Bois Rames Batiment 501, F-91400 Orsay, France.
5 : Inst Francais Rech Exploitat Mer, Lab Ocean Cotier, IFREMER PDG DFO, Ctr Bretagne ZI Pointe Diable, F-29280 Plouzane, France.
Source Science Of The Total Environment (0048-9697) (Elsevier Science Bv), 2019-03 , Vol. 656 , P. 1289-1303
DOI 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.11.448
WOS© Times Cited 16
Keyword(s) Radionuclide, Tracer, Database, Background concentration

Tritium concentrations in oceans were compiled from the literature, online databases and original measurements in order to determine the global distribution of tritium concentrations according to latitude and depth in all oceans.

The total inventory of tritium decay corrected in 2016 has been estimated using evaluation of the natural and artificial contributions in 23 spatial subdivisions of the total ocean. It is determined equal to 26.8 ± 14 kg including 3.8 kg of cosmogenic tritium. That is in agreement with the total atmospheric input of tritium from nuclear bomb tests and the natural inventory at steady-state estimated from natural production rates in the literature (27.8–29.3 kg in the Earth). We confirm the global increase in tritium according to latitude observed in the Northern hemisphere since 1967 with a maximum in the Arctic Ocean. The minimum tritium concentrations observed in the Southern Ocean were close to steady-state with known natural tritium deposition.

We focused on the temporal evolution of surface (0 to 500 m) tritium concentrations in a selected area of the North Atlantic Ocean (30°N–60°N) where we found the 2016 concentration to be 0.60 ± 0.10 TU (1σ). Results showed that in that area, between 1988 and 2013, tritium concentrations: i) decreased faster than the sole radioactive decay, due to a mixing with lower and lateral less concentrated waters, and ii) decreased towards an apparent steady state concentration. The half-time mixing rate of surface waters and the steady state concentration were respectively calculated to be 23 ± 5 years (1σ) and 0.38 ± 0.07 TU (1σ). This apparent steady-state concentration in the North Atlantic Ocean implies a mean tritium deposition of 1870 ± 345 Bq·m−2 (1σ), five folds higher than the known inputs (natural, nuclear tests fallout and industrial releases, ~367 Bq·m−2) in this area.

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