Radiometrics Laboratory

The Radiometrics Laboratory focuses on marine radioactivity measurements, monitoring and assessments and on radiotracer applications for environmental pollution, oceanographic processes and climate change studies. It maintains an online open-access database of worldwide marine radioactivity data and produces certified reference materials, which are distributed to laboratories globally.

The Radiometrics Laboratory uses radionuclides in the marine environment to study environmental and climate change. It assists laboratories to expand and improve their analytical capabilities by developing and validating analytical methods for radionuclides in marine samples, by providing reference materials and by organizing proficiency tests for radionuclides in marine matrices, including in seawater, sediment and marine organisms. 

Using radionuclides for modelling and assessments

The Laboratory offers support and training to the IAEA Member States in the area of modelling of dispersion and transfer of radionuclides in the marine environment. It conducts environmental and radiological assessments and provides expertise and training in rapid assessment methods for emergency response. It also operates low-level underground counting facilities that improve the sensitivity and reliability of gamma spectrometric analyses.

An important source of information on marine radioactivity measurements is the Marine Information System (MARiS), an online open-access database managed by the Radiometrics Laboratory. The database can be consulted by scientists and the general public, and provides general information on marine radioactivity as well as data on seawater, biota, sediment and suspended matter (small mineral or organic particles in the water).

Helping laboratories worldwide generate reliable data

Laboratories need expertise in techniques that guarantee high-quality results for analyses of marine samples and radioactivity data. To address these issues, the Radiometrics Laboratory organizes inter-laboratory comparisons and proficiency tests to validate and reinforce the expertise and reliability of laboratories worldwide. Such exercises challenge laboratories to verify their analytical capabilities and improve their procedures. The Laboratory also supports coordination, method development and training for the global network of Analytical Laboratories for the Measurement of Environmental Radioactivity (ALMERA).

The reference materials the Laboratory produces can be used for quality assurance and quality control purposes, as well as for method development, validation of analytical procedures and for training. The materials are certified and focus on the measurement of radionuclides in the marine environment, and include marine sediment, seawater, mussels and fish.

Environmental and climatic changes

Environmental radionuclides are used as tracers and timers for oceanographic processes, to study the extent of environmental variations and climate change as well as the history and impact of pollution. Applications include chronologies of environmental archives, studies of submarine groundwater discharge, fingerprinting of radioactive contaminants, studies of water mass origins, circulation and mixing, sedimentation studies and atmosphere-ocean fluxes of radionuclides. Such information is key to understanding the environment, to predictively model and assess environmental and climatic change as well as the fate and effects of pollutants.

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