It is typically released to the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide at BWRs, and methane at PWRs., radioactive carbon dioxide.
The gas mixes rapidly and becomes evenly distributed throughout the atmosphere (the mixing timescale in the order of weeks).
Production rates vary because of changes to the cosmic ray flux caused by the heliospheric modulation (solar wind and solar magnetic field), and due to variations in the Earth's magnetic field.
The latter can create significant variations in The New Zealand curve is representative for the Southern Hemisphere, the Austrian curve is representative for the Northern Hemisphere.
Libby estimated that the radioactivity of exchangeable carbon-14 would be about 14 disintegrations per minute (dpm) per gram of pure carbon, and this is still used as the activity of the modern radiocarbon standard.
Its presence in organic materials is the basis of the radiocarbon dating method pioneered by Willard Libby and colleagues (1949) to date archaeological, geological and hydrogeological samples.
A calculation or (more accurately) a direct comparison of carbon-14 levels in a sample, with tree ring or cave-deposit carbon-14 levels of a known age, then gives the wood or animal sample age-since-formation.
Carbon-14 is produced in the upper layers of the troposphere and the stratosphere by thermal neutrons absorbed by nitrogen atoms.
This resemblance is used in chemical and biological research, in a technique called carbon labeling: carbon-14 atoms can be used to replace nonradioactive carbon, in order to trace chemical and biochemical reactions involving carbon atoms from any given organic compound.
These are relatively low energies; the maximum distance traveled is estimated to be 22 cm in air and 0.27 mm in body tissue.