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Journal of Environmental Radioactivity
Vol. 73, 2004, Pages: 151–168


Environmental characterization and radio-ecological impacts of non-nuclear industries on the Red Sea coast

M.H. El Mamoneya,Ashraf E.M. Khaterb,*

a National Institute of Oceanography & Fisheries, Alexandria, Egypt b National Centre for Nuclear Safety and Radiation Control, Atomic Energy Authority, PO Box 7551, Nasr City, Cairo 11762, Egypt

Abstract

The Red Sea is a deep semi-enclosed and narrow basin connected to the Indian Ocean by a narrow sill in the south and to the Suez Canal in the north.Oil industries in the Gulf of Suez, phosphate ore mining activities in Safaga—Quseir region and intensified navigation activities are non-nuclear pollution sources that could have serious radiological impacts on the marine environment and the coastal ecosystems of the Red Sea.It is essential to establish the radiological base-line data, which does not exist yet, and to investigate the present radio-ecological impact of the non-nuclear industries to preserve and protect the coastal environment of the Red Sea.Some natural and man-made radionuclides have been measured in shore sediment samples collected from the Egyptian coast of the Red Sea.The specific activities of 226Ra and 210Pb (238U) series, 232Th series, 40K and 137Cs (Bq/kg dry weight) were measured using gamma ray spectrometers based on hyper-pure germanium detectors.The specific activities of 210Po (210Pb) and uranium isotopes (238U, 235U and 234U) (Bq/kg dry weight) were measured using alpha spectrometers based on surface barrier (PIPS) detectors after radiochemical separation.The absorbed radiation dose rates in air (nGy/h) due to natural radionuclides in shore sediment and radium equivalent activity index (Bq/kg) were calculated.The specific activity ratios of 228Ra/226Ra, 210Pb/226Ra, 226Ra/238U and 234U/238U were calculated for evaluation of the geo-chemical behaviour of these radionuclides.The average specific activity of 226Ra (238U) series, 232Th series, 40K and 210Pb were 24.7, 31.4, 427.5 and 25.6 Bq/kg, respectively. The concentration of 137Cs in the sediment samples was less than the lower limit of detection.The Red Sea coast is an arid region with very low rainfall and the sediment is mainly composed of sand.The specific activity of 238U, 235U and 234U were 25.3, 2.9 and 25.0 Bq/kg. The average specific activity ratios of 226Ra/228Ra, 210Pb/226Ra and 234U/238U were 1.67, 1.22 and 1.0, respectively. The relationship between 226Ra/228Ra activity ratio and sample locations along the coastal shoreline indicates the increase of this ratio in the direction of the Shuqeir in the north and Safaga in the south where the oil exploration and phosphate mining activities are located.These activities may contribute a high flux of 226Ra.The concentration and distribution pattern of 226Ra in sediment can be used to trace the radiological impact of the nonnuclear industries on the Red Sea coast.

Keywords: Natural radioactivity; Red Sea; Coastal environment; Non-nuclear industries.


Corresponding author: Tel: +996 52 41 8292; fax: +996 14 67 3656.

E-mail: khater_ashraf@yahoo.com.

 

 
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