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Scientists plan to study Lake Ladoga radiation contamination

The research will be financed by a grant from the Russian Science Foundation (RSF)

ST. PETERSBURG, January 17. /TASS/. Specialists of the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute (AARI) will assess the level of artificial radionuclides in Lake Ladoga, which have been accumulating there since the late 20th century due to the development of nuclear technologies. Lake Ladoga, the largest in Europe, is of great importance for scientists to understand how radionuclides get accumulated in water and bottom sediments, the institute's expert Dmitry Bolshiyanov told TASS.

"We - the humanity - need to know where indestructible pollutants get accumulated, how they can affect future generations, how develops the natural purification of water and precipitation. Therefore, Lake Ladoga, as the largest and deep reservoir, is a model, where we may understand ways of contamination and purification of the lake itself, and of other water bodies in case of artificial radionuclides contamination," he said.

Scientists plan to focus on studying the level of caesium-137 (137Cs) in Lake Ladoga's bottom sediments. It is an artificial radionuclide formed during nuclear fission in nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons.

"Even not very high contamination degrees of Lake Ladoga from the global nuclear weapons tests in the 1960s and from the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 have caused the effect, where long-lasting radionuclides get accumulated in the lake's bottom sediments, and gradually they removed from it with the flow of the Neva River," he added.

The research will be financed by a grant from the Russian Science Foundation (RSF). Works are due to begin in 2023. The results are expected not only to show the level of radionuclides in the lake itself, but also to help in understanding how they get accumulated and removed from the reservoir. Indirectly, these studies will help scientists to understand how more common pollutants, such as heavy metals, organochlorine compounds, and others get accumulated.

According to the expert, studies of radionuclides in the lake water and in the Neva River have been conducted earlier. However, studies of bottom sediments, which are long-term storages and accumulators of such objects, will be conducted for the first time. Besides, previous studies do not give a deep understanding of how radionuclides migrate throughout the vast water system of Lake Ladoga. The bottom sediments studies will also help to understand better how pollutants move inside Ladoga and its rivers.