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Radioactive iodine has been “legally” released by European nuclear power plants for over fifty years

Bermuda is a popular getaway destination, attracting people who are looking to get away from urban life and recharge a bit surrounded by crystal clear waters and nature. The beaches of Bermuda might not have that stifling big-city air, but something quite unexpected is lurking far beneath its waters. A study that was recently presented at the Goldschmidt geochemistry conference in France has revealed that radioactive material from European nuclear power plants had made its way to the tropical waters of Bermuda.

Incredibly, nuclear reprocessing plants at La Hague in France and Sellafield in the U.K. have been legally releasing radioactive contaminants for more than 50 years. In fact, scientists have started using the radioactive material known as 129iodine (129I) to track the movements of currents in the ocean. While they are quick to point out that the levels of radioactivity in the North Atlantic are very low and not dangerous, many people are uncomfortable with the idea of such chemicals being intentionally released into our planet’s waters.

The Bedford Institute of Oceanography’s Dr. John N. Smith said the tracking enabled them to confirm just how deep the ocean currents in the North Atlantic flow. The iodine began its 15,000-kilometer journey at the two plants in France and the U.K. and continued flowing north to the Arctic Ocean off of Norway. From there, it circulated around arctic basins before returning to Nordic Seas in a pattern known as the Arctic loop. Next, it headed south down North America’s continental slope before reaching Bermuda at depths below 3,000 meters. It has already made its way across a third of the globe, and it is expected to continue to flow to the south into the South Atlantic and ultimately spread itself throughout the ocean.

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