New IAEA project to improve dosimetry for terrestrial biota and environmental protection

The IAEA is launching a new Coordinated Research Project (CRP) aimed at improving scientific recommendations on dosimetry for terrestrial biota and advancing environmental protection.

Protecting people and the environment from harmful effects of ionizing radiation is the fundamental safety objective, as defined in the IAEA Fundamental Safety Principles (SF-1). Findings of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) and the recommendations of international expert bodies, notably the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP), are taken into account in developing the IAEA safety standards.

Extreme diversity of the non-human biota creates a major challenge for environmental radiological impact assessment. The current international recommendations and dose coefficients for non-human biota (ICRP, 2008; ICRP, 2017) address this diversity via systematic use of generic models and data, which serve as a robust and practical framework for environmental dose assessment. Still, some gaps can be identified for terrestrial organisms, for which the variability found in their environments and habitats cannot be comprehensively addressed by the existing generic methods and models. Experiences gained from the radiation accidents and legacy sites demonstrated that spatial variability of radioactive contamination, diversity of terrains and landscapes, behavior and life activities of biota may contribute significantly to uncertainty and / or a strong systematic bias of dose estimates.

Correspondingly, this new project is planned to address the existing gaps and to develop a robust probabilistic framework for assessment of external doses for terrestrial animals and plants. Such approach allows to adequately address and quantify inherent uncertainties due to spatial distribution of radioactivity in the environment, soil structure, water content, types of vegetation, terrain, migration routes of animals. Development of the framework should be supported by field experimental and theoretical Monte Carlo simulation studies, probabilistic modeling, and consideration of uncertainties.

CRP Overall Objective:

The new data and methods will become available to improve scientific recommendations on dosimetry for terrestrial biota, thus facilitating advancement of the environmental protection framework and helping the IAEA to better formulate safety standards for the environmental protection. The four-year project, which will run from the end of 2022 to 2026, will be implemented in coordination with the ICRP Committee 2, on Doses from Radiation Exposure, to facilitate further use of the project outcomes.

Specific Research Objectives:

  • Experimental field studies and data compilation
  • Benchmarking scenarios for advanced Monte Carlo modeling
  • New dose coefficients for biota from electron sources in soil and air
  • New dose coefficients for terrestrial vegetation
  • Development of probabilistic frameworks and performing a sensitivity analysis of external doses to variability of the environments, diversity and mobility of organisms and contaminants
  • Elaborating recommendations on the degree of realism adequate for environmental radiological assessment
  • Outreach and publication of the results (an IAEA TECDOC publication, a special issue in a peer-reviewed journal, special software tools and datasets)

How to participate in this CRP:

Research organizations interested in joining the CRP must submit their Proposal for Research Contract or Agreement by email, no later than 31 August 2022, to the IAEA’s Research Contracts Administration Section, using the appropriate template on the CRA web portal. Same template can be used for both research contracts and technical contracts. The IAEA encourages institutes to involve, to the extent possible, female researchers and young researchers in their proposals.

Potential applicants can use the contact form for further information related to this CRP.

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