The isotopic signature of fallout plutonium in the North Pacific Academic Article uri icon


  • Plutonium analyses of a dated coral record from the French Frigate Shoals in the central North Pacific indicate that there are two major sources of Pu in this basin: close-in (tropospheric) fallout from nuclear weapons testing at the Pacific Proving Grounds in the Marshall Islands in the 1950s and global (stratospheric) fallout which peaked in 1962. Furthermore, the Pu-240/Pu-239 atom ratio of fallout from the Pacific Proving Grounds is characteristically higher (0.24) than that of global fallout Pu (0.18-0.19). Seawater and sediment samples from the North Pacific exhibit a wide range of Pu-240/Pu-239 values (0.19-0.34), with a trend towards higher ratios in the subsurface waters and sediment. Deep water Pu-240/Pu-239 ration are higher in the vicinity of the Marshall Islands relative to stations further from this close-in fallout source. These preliminary data suggest that fallout Pu from the Pacific Proving Grounds is more rapidly removed from the surface waters than is global fallout Pu. Plutonium geochemistry appears to be related to the physical/chemical form of Pu-bearing particles generated by different fallout sources. (C) 1997 Elsevier Science Limited.

publication date

  • January 1997