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Enhancing Knowledge and Supporting Quality Assurance in Environmental Monitoring


Sample data is reviewed and transferred through mobile devices to a database back in the laboratory.

Around the world, the IAEA's technical cooperation (TC) programme is helping Member States achieve their development priorities while also taking measures to protect atmospheric, terrestrial and marine environments. Nuclear technology plays a vital role in this effort.

The IAEA's technical cooperation (TC) programme supports many projects that concentrate on environmental issues and activities, such as managing air pollutants, identifying harmful algal blooms in the ocean, monitoring agricultural pollutants and reducing pesticide residues. In order for countries to be able to share and compare specific environmental information, it is necessary to take a systematic approach to improve and harmonize methodologies for the determination and monitoring of selected environmental radionuclides of regional concern.

In 2012, a TC regional project, 'Supporting Quality Assurance for the Measurement and Monitoring of Radioactivity in the Environment' (RER/0/033), was initiated. It aimed to improve quality assurance for the measurement and monitoring of radioactivity in the environment, in accordance with ISO 17025, the international standard for the competence of testing and calibration laboratories. This two year project provides training for specialists from across the European region, as well as providing expertise on the use of standardised measurement procedures, improving the comparability of measurement results related to environmental radioactivity. This is mainly addressed through workshops and training courses.

Participants learn about online geographical visualisation tools from Mr Gerd Dercon, Laboratory Head, Soil and Water Management and Crop Nutrition Section, IAEA.

One critical element of this TC project, a week long training course, took place at the IAEA’s laboratories in Seibersdorf, Austria. The laboratories, which recently celebrated their 50th anniversary, provide a dynamic training hub for nearly one hundred scientists, technicians, fellows, interns and students from around the world.

The training course, organized by the Terrestrial Environment Laboratory, presented the recommended procedures and techniques for soil and vegetation sampling and their application for both routine and emergency environmental monitoring. The course was attended by over 30 participants from 25 countries from the European region.

Sampling of surface soil using specialist tools.

Training, including practical sampling exercises in the field, included the following topics:

  • International standards, guidelines and recommended procedures for soil and vegetation sampling;
  • Application of sampling procedures for routine environmental monitoring and monitoring in case of emergency;
  • Tools and equipment for soil and vegetation sampling;
  • Recording of sampling data.

Participants were able to see and use monitoring tools and equipment, and to learn the correct techniques and procedures for handling them in the field.

Through the training course, and by bringing together researchers and technicians from the region, local knowledge has been improved and networks among countries have been strengthened. This supports sustainable coordination of common processes and effective use of equipment and tools.

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