Arid Environment

Transfer of Radionuclides in Arid and Semi-Arid Environments for Radiological Environmental Impact Assessment (K41022)

The IAEA is launching a new Coordinated Research Project (CRP) aimed at improving the understanding of radionuclide transfer in arid and semi-arid environments in support of radiological environmental impact assessment (REIA) and dose assessment.

Arid and semi-arid areas are defined by excess evaporation compared to the amount of precipitation, endure low and erratic precipitation, high temperature variations, and strong dry winds. As a result, soils in such areas tend to have low fertility, low availability of nitrogen and phosphorus, low water-holding capacity, high acidity (pH), low soil organic matter, shallowness and stoneiness. All these factors reduce their arability and their corresponding capacity for crop production, potentially leading to food security issues.

The CRP, entitled to Transfer of Radionuclides in Arid and Semi-Arid Environments for Radiological Environmental Impact Assessment, will run for five years, starting in May 2021. This framework will provide a better understanding of radionuclide behavior and transfer in the environment to ensure the safe and sustainable planning and operation of nuclear facilities and activities, such as nuclear installations and uranium facilities in areas characterized by arid or semi-arid climate.

One of the main objectives of this CRP is to enable more informed decision making in radiological environmental impact assessments for public and environment protection. The project will apply systematic sampling strategies and measurement protocols to fill current data gaps in support of radiological environmental impact assessment and to facilitate comparison of radionuclide transfer across different climatic zones.

Research objectives

Specific research objectives of the CRP include:

  • Establishing a protocol and guidelines to determine soil-to-plant concentration ratios for radionuclides (and their stable analogues) in relevant food-plant groups in arid and semi-arid regions;
  • Enhancing the current Modeling and Data for Radiological Impact Assessments II (MODARIA II) radionuclide transfer data by including a wider range of food groups and elements for use as input parameters in radioecological models for arid and semi-arid regions;
  • Determining key radionuclides and food-plant groups that contribute to dose in arid and semi-arid compared to non-arid regions;
  • Enhancing networking to support optimization and harmonization of radioecological research activities of IAEA Member States for application in the assessment of radioecological impacts in arid and semi-arid areas.

Expected Results

Overall expected outcomes of the CRP are:

  • Improved parameter data quality underlying assessment models for application in arid and semi-arid regions; and
  • Enhanced capacity and international collaboration for CRP participants in deriving local transfer parameter data using standardized methodologies for use in dose assessments and radiological environmental impact assessments in arid/semi-arid areas

The outcomes of this CRP will be leveraged with those of a related CRP on Monitoring and Predicting Radionuclide Uptake and Dynamics for Optimizing Remediation of Radioactive Contamination in Agriculture (CRP D15019), which is currently being led by the Joint FAO/IAEA Center of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture. Together, these CRPs will provide needed insight in support of UN Sustainable Development Goal, SDG15: Life on Land.

The data generated through this CRP will also feed into the IAEA’s new program on harmonized methods for radiological environmental impact assessment, to begin later in 2021.

How to join this CRP

Specific eligibility criteria for all CRP participants are, as follows:

  • Planned activities of the participants’ research proposal should address the CRP research objectives;
  • Participants should have proven experience (scientific publications, research projects) in radioecology/contaminant dynamics;
  • Participants with access to experimental sites in arid/semi-arid areas (according to Köppen-Geiger climate classification) suitable for experiment on soil-to-plant crop transfer studies (various plants important for local diet and/or for production) and access to analytical laboratories for the measurement of radionuclides by at least one analytical technique for the determination of radionuclides and/or their stable analogues (eg gamma ray spectrometry, alpha spectrometry, ICP-MS) have priority;
  • Participation of well-qualified female researchers and young researchers as Chief Scientific Investigators is highly encouraged.

Interested participants should submit their Proposal for Research Contract or Agreement by email to the IAEA’s Research Contracts Administration Section no later than 31 July 2021, using the appropriate template on the CRA website. The same template can be used for both research contracts and technical contracts.

The project builds on the work of IAEA’s MODARIA II programme, which compiles the first transfer parameter data significant for human food chains in arid and semi-arid areas and which has also highlighted the very limited data available on radionuclide transfer for such areas.

For further information related to this CRP, potential applicants should use the CRP contact form.

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