Radionuclides in the Baltic Sea : Ecosystem models and experiments on transport and fate
Manmade radionuclides have been introduced to the environment for almost a century. The main source has been the nuclear weapons testing programmes, but accidental releases from the nuclear power production industries have also contributed. The risk to humans from potential releases from nuclear facilities is evaluated in safety assessments. Essential components of these assessments are exposure models, which estimate the transport of radionuclides in the environment, the uptake in biota, and transfer to humans. Recently, there has been a growing concern for radiological protection of the whole environment, not only humans, and a first attempt has been to employ model approaches based on stylised environments and transfer functions to biota based exclusively on bioconcentration factors. They are generally of a non-mechanistic nature and involve no knowledge of the actual processes involved, which is a severe limitation when assessing real ecosystems. The research presented in this thesis attempts to introduce a methodology for modelling exposure of biota that is based on systems ecological theories and concepts. All presented papers concern bioaccumulation and circulation of radionuclides in coastal areas of the Baltic Sea, which is a sea surrounded by several nuclear power plants, waste repositories and reprocessing facilities. Paper I illustrates how an ecosystem model can be used to predict the fate of C-14 in a bay, and to explore the influence of uptake route and water exchange on the concentrations in biota. Due to the longevity of many radionuclides, time spans of thousands of years need to be considered in assessments of nuclear waste facilities. In Paper II, the methodological problems associated with these long timescales are discussed and a new modelling approach is proposed. An extension and generalisation of the C-14 flow model into a generic model for other radionuclides is described and tested in Paper III. This paper also explores the importance of three radionuclide specific mechanisms (plant uptake, excretion and adsorption to organic surfaces) for the concentrations in biota. In Paper IV, the bioaccumulation kinetics of three radionuclides in three key benthic species of the Baltic Sea is studied experimentally. Paper V considers remobilisation and redistribution of sediment-associated radionuclides due to biological mixing, in a microcosm study.The findings in this thesis show both that it was possible to use an ecosystem approach to assess the exposure to biota, and that this approach can handle many of the problems identified in the use of traditional exposure models for radionuclides. To conclude, frameworks for the protection of the environment from ionising radiation would benefit from implementing methodologies based on ecologically sound principles and modelling techniques.
Source Type:Doctoral Dissertation
Keywords:NATURAL SCIENCES; Biology; Terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecology; radionuclide; baltic sea; ecosystem model; ecosystem dynamics; risk assessment; safety assessment; benthic invertebrates; bioturbation; bioaccumulation; remobilisation
Date of Publication:01/01/2004