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Marine Radioactivity

Amongst IAEA-MEL’s main objectives is to provide Agency Member States with reliable data on radionuclides in the marine environment and to enable these Member States to understand the sources, transfer, fate and impact of radionuclides in the marine environment by using accessible, comprehensive databases and appropriate tracer and modelling techniques with a view towards evaluating the overall radiological situation in their marine environment.

The measurement and assessment of radionuclides in the marine environment are central to national and international projects in the Agency’s Member States. There is a rising interest in: (a) reliable measurements of lower levels of radionuclides in marine samples, with results to be used in both assessment and radiotracer studies; (b) assessment of impact related to nuclear facilities, accidents at sea and malicious acts, to comply with regulatory limits and increased public environmental awareness and concern; (c) measurement and assessment of NORMs (Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials); (d) evaluation of doses from natural and anthropogenic radionuclides to humans and marine biota; and (e) development of radiotracer applications to study oceanographic processes and marine pollution. The Marine Environment Laboratories (MEL) in Monaco, both the only marine laboratory in the UN system and the focal point of the Agency’s technical expertise for the marine environment, is uniquely placed to foster excellence in the application of nuclear analytical and tracer techniques to marine environmental and oceanographic process studies. MEL’s core capability to measure and to assess radioactivity is permanently updated and adapted to the current requirements of Member States. This capability stands at the basis of MEL’s assistance to Member States through assessments carried out at their request in their territorial waters and through transfer of methodology to Member States laboratories. A significant part of the marine radioactivity data obtained by laboratories worldwide was made accessible through MARiS, an on-line database, to support analysis of space-time trends, baseline studies and model validation. Finally, the modelling of the dispersal and transfer of radionuclides and the assessment of their environmental and radiological impacts aiming to understand and set into perspective the fate and effects of various radionuclides in the marine environment and evaluate any transboundary contamination issues is supported through collaborative projects.