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Non-nuclear energy


Fission and radiation protection

Research in this area is concerned with improving understanding of the behaviour and transfer of radioactive materials in the environment, with a view to developing sound policy and good practice in managing the impact of natural and artificial sources of radiation on man and the environment.

Radionuclides may undergo various physical, chemical and /or environmental transformation processes including fixation, isotopic dilution, exchange with stable isotopes and chemical analogues in the soil matrix and organisms and be affected by weathering. All these processes influence directly or indirectly the flux of radioactive species within the ecosphere and the ecological half-life (or persistence) in certain environments.

Bioaccumulation, or how radionuclides concentrate during their transfer through the environment, has particular relevance to assessments of potential contamination of the food chain and human exposure.

This basic knowledge is a prerequisite for effective impact assessment of radionuclides on man and the environment and for management of accident scenarios. Transfer pathways for important radionuclides have been studied both in the laboratory and the field using natural sources, controlled discharges and accidental releases resulting in useful ecological models. 

Research in this area expanded considerably in the aftermath of the Chernobyl accident which contaminated much of the European Union with radioactive fallout. Fundamental and applied research has resulted in major advances in the understanding of the behaviour of radionuclides in the environment and in managing and restoring contaminated areas.

The focus of recent research is on application of knowledge rather than its acquisition, however fundamental research continues in many areas where understanding needs to be improved to underpin policy. Future research will support the promotion of sustainable integration of radioecological research in Europe, in particular to maintain competence in this area and ensure that Europe is ready to respond to any future need.