Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Researchers Probe Island For Radiation

Date:
July 6, 2004
Source:
University Of Alberta
Summary:
A University of Alberta research team, with the permission of the US Department of Energy and the aid of a grant, travelled to Amchitka Island to measure how much radioactivity is leaking from underground blast sites. The remote island was used for three American underground nuclear tests in the 1960s and 1970s.

For Dr. Martyn Unsworth and his research team, a nice June day means no risk of hypothermia, and only a couple of days with rain and a cruel wind that can blow up to 80 kilometres an hour.

"In the Aleutians, that's pretty good," Unsworth mused. The University of Alberta researcher and a team of five students toiled under those very conditions during a nine-day visit last month to the remote string of US-owned islands, which extend southwest of Alaska.

The group, with the permission of the US Department of Energy and the aid of a grant, travelled to Amchitka Island to measure how much radioactivity is leaking from underground blast sites. The remote island was used for three American underground nuclear tests in the 1960s and 1970s.

Amchitka, which became the heart of anti-nuclear protests and eventually spured the formation of Greenpeace, was the home of Project Cannikin, the largest of the three tests. The 1971 blast from the five-megaton warhead test measured 7.1 on the Richter Scale and left a caved-in crater almost two kilometres wide and 18 metres deep. The crater later became the largest lake on the island.

Though the US government cleaned up the surface in 2001, "there's not been a systematic examination" of the underground sites since the 1970s, said Unsworth, a geophysics professor in the U of A’s Faculty of Science.

He and his team--U of A students Wolfgang Soyer, Volkan Tuncer and William Shulba and two students from the universities of Alaska and British Columbia--were funded by the Consortium for Risk Evaluation with Stakeholder Participation (CRESP). The organization was set up by the US government to remediate all Cold War-era nuclear weapons sites.

Visiting the abandoned island was a poignant experience, Unsworth said. "It was the frontier in the Cold War…the end of the line against the Soviets. It was such a needless test. We saw such a pristine wilderness area, and you've got to ask yourself if it was necessary to do that. It was a little bit haunting."

Bundled against the elements and wearing radiation badges (which showed safe readings for surface radiation), they traversed the island, which is 48 kilometres long and almost five km wide. They measured radiowaves from the atmosphere that penetrate the Earth, revealing fractures around the test sites that in turn, lead to clues about the condition of the groundwater.

Especially vital is information about contamination of the island's tables of saltwater and fresh water. "The contaminated groundwater will, within 50 to 100 years, start oozing into the Bering Sea," Unsworth said. While little can be done to prevent the leakage, nearby fishermen and Aleut communities can be warned when it does happen, he added.

"If you know this stuff is coming out, you can do more enhanced monitoring and keep people away from contaminated areas." The leakage will flow out more quickly if it is in the fresh water, as opposed to the more stagnant layer of saltwater, Unsworth said.

The team also took some global positioning measurements to gather updated information on how much the island is changing shape in response to plate tectonics, he added. Previous data has shown that the island is stretching lengthways, which could open up fractures.

While the team must first share its findings with CRESP, the information will also be published in scientific journals, Unsworth said.

###

Related links

Dr. Martyn Unsworth's U of A webpage: http://www-geo.phys.ualberta.ca/~unsworth/

The U of A Department of Physics website: http://www.phys.ualberta.ca/

CRESP website: http://www.cresp.org/


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of Alberta. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of Alberta. "Researchers Probe Island For Radiation." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 July 2004. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/07/040706080546.htm>.
University Of Alberta. (2004, July 6). Researchers Probe Island For Radiation. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/07/040706080546.htm
University Of Alberta. "Researchers Probe Island For Radiation." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/07/040706080546.htm (accessed August 21, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Flower Power! Dandelions Make Car Tires?

Flower Power! Dandelions Make Car Tires?

Reuters - Business Video Online (Aug. 20, 2014) Forget rolling on rubber, could car drivers soon be traveling on tires made from dandelions? Teams of scientists are racing to breed a type of the yellow flower whose taproot has a milky fluid with tire-grade rubber particles in it. As Joanna Partridge reports, global tire makers are investing millions in research into a new tire source. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Awesome New Camouflage Sheet Was Inspired By Octopus Skin

Awesome New Camouflage Sheet Was Inspired By Octopus Skin

Newsy (Aug. 19, 2014) Scientists have developed a new device that mimics the way octopuses blend in with their surroundings to hide from dangerous predators. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

AP (Aug. 19, 2014) Four Texas high school football programs are trying out an experimental system designed to diagnose concussions on the field. The technology is in response to growing concern over head trauma in America's most watched sport. (Aug. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Green Power Blooms as Japan Unveils 'hydrangea Solar Cell'

Green Power Blooms as Japan Unveils 'hydrangea Solar Cell'

AFP (Aug. 19, 2014) A solar cell that resembles a flower is offering a new take on green energy in Japan, where one scientist is searching for renewables that look good. Duration: 01:29 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins