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Impact assessment of elevated levels of natural/technogenic radioactivity on wildlife of the North. A joint project by the:
Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority (Norway), Norwegian University of Life Sciences (Norway), International Academy of Modern Knowledge (Russia), Institute of Biology (Russia).

Sponsored by Norwegian Research Council (Project no.: 185134/S50) through Cooperation Programme with Russia (2008-2010). 

Dyr. Foto: Ansgar Walk.

Ionizing contaminants are present in northern regions and constitute an existing exposure hazard to wildlife. Non-nuclear industries dealing with TENORM; nuclear power and reprocessing plants; civil and military nuclear powered vessels, etc. are situated in (or near) northern environments and form a present-day and potential source of environmental contamination. At the same time, the understanding of radiobiological effects in northern organisms is very limited, and there is still no system of assessing the impact of ionizing radiation on wildlife of the North. Such a system is needed in order to evaluate the radiological safety, as part of the licensing process, and to provide technological solutions to the radiological problems and hazards existing in the North.

Methodologies to assess the impact of exposure to ionising radiation on flora and fauna in European temperate and Arctic environments have been developed in two European collaborative projects “FASSET - Framework for Assessment of Environmental Impact” and “EPIC - Environmental Protection from Ionizing Contaminants in the Arctic” respectively. The latter project provides a number of the foundation stones that are prerequisite in the process of developing a robust assessment methodology for the Arctic. However, the development of the EPIC framework was curtailed at a point that does not allow for risk characterisation or concomitant management options. These programmes were superseded by the project “ERICA - Environmental Risk from Ionising Contaminants: Assessment and Management” wherein risk assessment methodologies have been developed and issues relevant to decision making in the context of the management of environmental impacts of radioactivity have been addressed. However, these recent developments have been mostly concerned with temperate regions and not applied to the present situation in the North. Furthermore, hypotheses concerning the greater vulnerability of Arctic plants and animals to exposures to ionising radiation have not been tested yet.

INTRANOR will draw on the additional components and methodologies recently developed within the ERICA project and uses EPIC as a foundation to develop a system for assessment of the radiological impact on wildlife of the North from technologically enhanced naturally occurring radioactive material (TENORM) and man-made radioactivity. This will be achieved through the development of radiological impact assessment tools and through the derivation of appropriate criteria and standards. The major research objectives are: 1) Development of a methodology for assessing the radiation impact on natural biota of the North. 2) Evaluation of radiation dose loads to representatives of terrestrial, freshwater and marine biota in the areas of enhanced levels of radioactivity. 3) Derivation of dose-effects relationships for wildlife, inhabiting the areas with enhanced levels of radionuclides. 4) Development of criteria ensuring the radiation safety of vulnerable northern ecosystems.

So far, significant effort has been placed into developing and refining environmental impact assessments for ionising radiation within the Arctic. Results from this work were presented at an international Conference held in Bergen, Norway in June 2008. The developments in the last few years concerning issues surrounding protection of the environment from radiation have provided a wealth of information and data that can be considered in the context of its applicability to Arctic conditions. In collaboration with Russian partners, the results from a study looking at effects on vegetation in a boreal area contaminated from the storage of mill tailings of uranium and wastes from radium production have been summarised and incorporated into a scientific report. Significant cytogenetic effects in chronically irradiated vegetation populations were observed at doses 10 times higher than the natural background. Reduced reproductive success (characterized by a significantly increased level of embryonic lethal mutations) was observed at absorbed doses of 0.2 – 0.7 Gy.

First meeting:
The kick off meeting was held at the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority, on 4-5th February 2008.

Second meeting:
The second INTRANOR meeting was held at the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority, on 29th May 2009. Presentations by participants of the second meeting:

Contact person:
Ali Hosseini, Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority (Norway): ali.hosseini@nrpa.no

List of publications from the project

External links