Energy and Environment

Radioecology

Radioecology is a scientific discipline which studies how radioactive substances interact with nature; how different mechanisms affect the substances’ migration and uptake in food chain and ecosystems. Investigations in radioecology might include aspects of field sampling, designed field and laboratory experiments and the development of predictive simulation models. This multi- and interdisciplinary science combines techniques from some of the more basic, traditional fields, such as physics, chemistry, mathematics, biology, and ecology, with applied concepts in radiation protection. Radioecological studies form the basis for estimating doses and assessing the consequences of radioactive pollution for human health and the environment.
Contact

Strålberg, Elisabeth

Department Head

 

The interest in radioecology in Norway increased after the Chernobyl accident in 1986 when large parts of Norway were contaminated with radioactive fallout. Areas, which received most deposition, were areas with heavy rainfall the period when the radioactive plume passed by (e.g. Valdres and Trøndelag). The measurement techniques used to detect the radioactive substances are highly sensitive and today, more than 20 years later, it is still possible to detect the fallout. Other sources to radioactivity in the environment are global fallout from nuclear weapons testing in the atmosphere in the 1950’s and 60’s, routine discharges from nuclear installations like the reprocessing facilities at Sellafield and La Hague, and possible leakage of radioactivity from sunken nuclear-powered submarines.

Earlier, the main focus has been on potential doses to the human population from radioactive pollution. The International Commission Radiological Protection (ICRP) has previously expressed the view that if man is adequately protected from ionising radiation, also other organisms will be adequately protected. In recent years, the validity of this assumption has been questioned, especially for areas where man is not present. Several international projects has addressed this issue, with the aim of developing a system for estimating doses to biota.

The Environmental Monitoring Section at the Health and Safety Department has been, and is involved in several projects related to radioecology.

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Collecting water for testing in laboratory