Benchmarking the Environmental Impact of Radionuclides

31 March 2011

Progress in the INPRO Collaborative Project on "Environmental Impact Benchmarking Applicable for Nuclear Energy System under Normal Operation" (ENV) was discussed at a meeting held at CEA in Paris, France, on 23-25 March 2011. Participants from eight countries attended this third meeting of the ENV project.

"In this project, participating INPRO Members compare existing methodologies available for assessing environmental impacts of nuclear energy systems under normal operation; at this point, we are not considering accident scenarios", explains Leonhard Meyer of the INPRO Group, who is the Scientific Secretary of this Collaborative Project (CP). "The results of this CP will also provide feedback for the practical application of the INPRO methodology in the area of environment" he adds.

In the environmental assessment area of the INPRO methodology, the acceptability of environmental effects must be considered. As some hundred radionuclides may be present in releases from nuclear facilities, the number of calculations could be relatively high. Therefore, a ranking methodology for their environmental impact on human health is necessary.

"The focus of the study is on testing an approach that uses one source term, namely a nuclear power plant at normal operation, three release scenarios, that is release to the atmosphere, to surface water and to marine water, and the impact on humans as target group", says Marcelle Phaneuf of the IAEA Terrestrial Environment Laboratory that is cooperating in this CP.

So far, the project participants have undertaken three case studies; their preliminary findings were presented and discussed at the meeting:

  • In the first case, all parameters such as meteorological data, transfer coefficients, exposure pathways, and consumption rates were predefined;

  • In the second case, atmospheric releases were studied, using the same fixed parameters but varying only the meteorological data to see how local data would affect the ranking of radionuclides; preliminary results indicate that the use of local meteorological data does not significantly change the ranking of radionuclides;

  • The third case study included diverse natural and cultural living conditions, such as country specific food chains; here, preliminary results indicate that these variations do have an effect on radionuclide ranking, particularly in terms of the type of consumed food.

In 2011, the results of the ranking of radionuclides regarding their impact on human health will be summarized in a standardized form for publication in a final report. The project is expected to be completed by mid-2012.

Initiated by France, other participating countries in the project are Brazil, India, Indonesia, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation and Ukraine. Within the IAEA, the Terrestrial Environment Laboratory (at Seibersdorf) from the Department of Nuclear Sciences and Applications and the Wastes and Environment Safety Section from the Department of Nuclear Safety and Security are cooperating on this INPRO Collaborative Project.

Contact: Leonhard Meyer

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