Radiocarbon in the environment from the nuclear industry in Canada: a review

Mrs Carley Crann1, Dr.  Felix Vogel2, Professor Michael Pisaric3

1A.E. Lalonde AMS Laboratory, Ottawa, Canada, 2Climate Research Division, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Toronto, Canada, 3Department of Geography and Tourism Studies, Brock University, St Catherine’s, Canada

Applications of radiocarbon analysis since the industrial revolution must take into consideration the anthropogenic sources of carbon isotopes. However, there is no simple correction factor to apply since anthropogenic carbon emissions vary across space and time and can either contribute to a depletion in the 14CO2 signature (eg. burning of fossil fuels), or an enrichment in the 14CO2 signature (eg. from the nuclear industry). About 15% of Canada’s electricity comes from nuclear power and the CANDU reactor design emits higher levels of 14CO2 than the boiling reactor design. Monitoring of stack emissions from CANDU reactors started in the 1980s. Here we review the sources and history of nuclear 14CO2 emissions and emissions monitoring data around nuclear facilities in Canada, as well as the publicly available 14C data on environmental samples (air, tree ring, vegetation) from the modern age. From this review, we identify key spatial and temporal gaps in the datasets that may be filled by tree ring measurements.


Carley received her B.Sc. in Geology from the University of Ottawa and M.Sc. in Earth Sciences from the Carleton University and Queen’s University (Belfast. Carley has been working at the AEL-AMS Laboratory since it opened in 2013.

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Nov 17 2021


1:00 pm - 1:25 pm