The source of anomalous radioactivity in the springs bordering the Sea of Galilee, Israel

S. Ilani*, T. Minster, J. Kronfeld, O. Even

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Situated within the Jordan Rift Valley, along the shores of Lake Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) which serves as the national water reservoir of Israel, are saline hot springs that are notable for their enrichment in radon and radium. Though the anomalous radioactivity has been known for almost half a century, the source of the radioactive anomalies has been a subject of conjecture. Radiometric analysis of a rock core drilled through Mt. Arbel, situated to the west of the lake, reveals that the oil shale sequence of the Senonian En Zetim and Ghareb formations is strikingly deficient in radium. Mt. Arbel has been cut by Rift Valley related faults that serve as conduits for ascending brines. The organic matter enriched sequence is encountered in the subsurface at elevations lower than the water level of the nearby radioactive enriched hot springs. It is thus concluded that hot ascending brines underlying the lake flush through the organic matter enriched sequence and remove a substantial percentage of 226Ra from the uranium enriched organic material, before draining to the outlets of the springs. Saline springs that are in contact with organic matter enriched sequence show excess of radium and radon, while fresh water springs in the same stratigraphic position show only excess of radon.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)137-146
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Environmental Radioactivity
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2006


  • Groundwater
  • Hot springs
  • Oil shale
  • Radioactivity
  • Radium
  • Radon
  • Rift Valley
  • Sea of Galilee
  • U-series disequilibrium


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