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Nevada nuke test fallout turns up in Hertfordshire

Soil legacy of 1950s blasts

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Scientists from Rothamsted Research in Hertfordshire and the University of Southampton have identified plutonium from 1950s US nuclear tests in British soil, the BBC reports. The team has also pinpointed fallout from Bikini Atoll and Chernobyl.

The findings come as part of a soil-monitoring programme which began in 1843 - originally to study the effects of fertiliser use. Now, however, the boffins have been able to pinpoint the signature fallout from various nuclear events which proves that contamination from distant bomb tests did affect northern Europe - albeit at a very low-level. The University of Southampton used mass spectrometry to probe samples for plutonium, radium and caesium.

Professor Keith Goulding of Rothamsted said: "Each weapons test has a characteristic signature of different isotopes; in this case [Nevada] it is two different plutonium isotopes, but it could be two different uranium isotopes."

The research will be more fully expounded at this week's BA Festival of Science in Exeter. ®

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