, Volume 43, Issue 6, pp 729-744
Date: 22 Feb 2014

Nuclear Weapons Tests and Environmental Consequences: A Global Perspective

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Abstract

The beginning of the atomic age marked the outset of nuclear weapons testing, which is responsible for the radioactive contamination of a large number of sites worldwide. The paper aims to analyze nuclear weapons tests conducted in the second half of the twentieth century, highlighting the impact of radioactive pollution on the atmospheric, aquatic, and underground environments. Special attention was given to the concentration of main radioactive isotopes which were released, such as 14C, 137Cs, and 90Sr, generally stored in the atmosphere and marine environment. In addition, an attempt was made to trace the spatial delimitation of the most heavily contaminated sites worldwide, and to note the human exposure which has caused a significantly increased incidence of thyroidal cancer locally and regionally. The United States is one of the important examples of assessing the correlation between the increase in the thyroid cancer incidence rate and the continental-scale radioactive contamination with 131I, a radioactive isotope which was released in large amounts during the nuclear tests carried out in the main test site, Nevada.