Task Groups

Task group on Radioecology in arid regions

[ Co-Chairs: Gabriele Voigt (gabi_voigt@yahoo.de) and Natalia Semioshkina (semioschkina@gmail.com) ]

Climatic change is already happening and shows impact on the earth's environment like the melting of glaciers and the rise of the sea level. In the long term, however, despite the concrete actions that seem to be engaged following the COP 21 signature by almost 200 countries, temperature will continue to raise resulting in scarcity of energy and water resources, and leaving vast terrestrial areas becoming more arid and desert-like in many parts of the world. Agriculture and consumption habit therefore will have to adapt accordingly. 

In addition, despite of the termination of nuclear energy production in some countries, essentially European, its utilization and the applications of nuclear technologies are becoming increasingly a cornerstone in the socio-economic development of many countries around the world. These countries recognize the potential benefits to be gained, and gradually implement nuclear methods and techniques e.g. in the petrochemical industry, medicine or research, like in China, India, the Arabic peninsula and the Middle East covering wide areas of arid and semi-arid ecosystems.

Whilst sufficient information about radionuclide behaviour and interaction with environments in temperate regions has been published and is available, there is little information on radioecology in arid areas. In order to be able to face potential deleterious impact of radioactivity accidentally released into such regions, it is important to construct the radioecological knowledge about transfer and impacts of radionuclides in such arid areas characterized by ecosystems and climatic conditions very specific.  

Therefore, the IUR (International Union of Radioecology) is calling for interest in establishing a new Task Group on the transfer of radionuclides in arid environments. Its goal will be to address the risks associated in embracing nuclear technologies in light of the regional environmental peculiarities in those countries. A system to identify radioecologically sensitive regions under these special conditions needs to be established. This should be based on a number of components including a geographical database (GIS) of the terrestrial components and parameters; localized habitat, production and consumption, environmental co-factors such as climate; and the extent and type of radioactive pollution that could possibly affect the regions.

The ultimate aim is to create an EDSS (Environmental Decision Support System) for countries of arid and semi-arid regions, which will be able to integrate information in a spatial and temporal resolution to be combined with radioecological transfer models. This will allow the derivation of critical load maps and the identification of endangered ecosystems. In addition, it allows for the identification of critical pathways to protect the environment and humans from unexpectedly elevated and routine releases of radioactivity during the operation of a nuclear power plant, research reactor or any other nuclear installation in the medical or any other scientific field.

This project aims to build the foundation for a sound and robust EDSS:

  1. To compile/collate existing global and local radioecological/spatial/temporal data for arid/semi-arid climates into a comprehensive database.
  2. To identify gaps in the existing radioecological data and formulate methods to complete knowledge gaps
  3. To identify relevant and related experimental studies to be undertaken to fill in gaps identified via the results observed from objectives 1-3.
  4. To develop a preliminary/prototype radioecological model for arid climate (based on existing modelling software such as Ecolego™ for example).

 The project will also need further an experimental work:

  • Establishment (if necessary) of laboratory and preparation of special equipment for experiments on radionuclide migration in arid soils.
  • Measurement of transfer of Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (NORM) and heavy metals from soils to local agricultural plants.
  • Investigation of the mobility of radionuclide in soil and in soil-plant system, determination of transfer factors.

Anyone interested in joining this Task Group and participate in the development of its activities should declare him/herself to one of the co-chairs, Gabriele Voigt (gabi_voigt@yahoo.de) and Natalia Semioshkina (semioschkina@gmail.com).


Forthcoming event:

  • Joint Meeting IUR-MODARIA II on Radioecology of Arid Regions
    24-26 June 2019 - Rabat, Morocco



Previous events:

  • Joint Interim Meeting of the IUR Taskforce Radioecology in Arid Environments and MODARIA II Working Group IV subgroup 3 – Transfer Parameters in non-temperate Systems
    Athens, Greece - 6–7 April, 2017

Minutes of IUR/MODRIA meeting - Download the pdf

Chair, Konstantinos Eleftheriadis welcomed the participants including Danyl who was connected via Video Conferencing from CIEMAT, Spain. Unfortunately, some participants were not able to come or had to cancel their participation in the last minute. The meeting was mainly addressed to discuss interim results and how to proceed further.

After a short round of introduction of all participants, H. Florou started with the presentations and introduced her ongoing projects specifically those on ecosystem research in her group. Constantinos Potiriadis reflected on the environmental radioactivity laboratory activities and addressed their inspections, monitoring and measurements of NORMs, WBC, chemical analysis and scrap metal analysis. Mr. Wu from China shortly reported on his services for radiation monitoring and radioecological impact assessments of his Department in the Tsinghua University in Beijing. He was already involved into EMRAS and modelling comparisons. K. Eleftheriadis presented results of air born radioactivity, resuspension and dispersion modelling which are important specifically considering arid environments as the important pathways to dose to man via inhalation of radioactive particles originating from sand and particle transport over long distances.

N. Semioshkina and G. Voigt presented the excel sheet templates, and the group discussed in detail about the structure of the data bank. Over 200 publications in 23 countries with arid climates at present had been collated so far.

Members of the group will continue to provide published or unpublished data from their networks and connections.
- Danyl Perez-Sanches will provide radioecological data of Niger collected by AREVA.
- Konstantinos Eleftheriadis will set up a contact to corresponding organisations in Algeria, Morocco and Tunis

The group agreed that the data evaluation (TFs soil-plant, plant-animals) should reflect the recommended TRS 1616 classification so that values can be directly compared:

1. No laboratory experiments but only field experiments2. Field experiments under normal agricultural conditions (i.e. fertilizing, irrigation)
3. Conversion factors dry ↔ wet
4. 4 Soil type classes
5. 8 Vegetation classes.

For the quality assurance and control the group agreed on the following factors to be taken into account as measure:

1. Intercomparison studies conducted e.g. ALMERA or similar – 1 point
2. Sampling strategy and protocols (systematic sampling) available – 1 point
3. Data evaluation and statistics provided – 1 point
4. Equipment and metrology clearly described – 1 point

With this a maximum of 4 points will reflect High Quality data.

All data will be analysed accordingly to deduce transfer parameters and made available for the IAEA data base. Transfer to fruit and to other products (plant and animals) will be treated separately in the IUR taskforce data bank taking into account the TRS 1616 considerations. The transfer factors obtained can be directly used for comparison studies as presented by S. Fesenko, who demonstrated first results with significantly higher TFs Cs-137/Sr-90 in tropical environments, compared to tendentially lower TFs in subtropical environments.

K. Kehagia presented the results of U-238/U-234 and Ra measurements in seawater, surface river water and freshwater from her monitoring studies. H. Florou presented her latest results on concentration ratios in natural biota and her comparisons of natural reference organisms with model comparisons using the ERICA tool. N. Semioshkina presented the r.e.m. report on consumption habits and agricultural practices in Arab countries. It was agreed that a chapter on identification of relevant critical groups and pathways should be included. The draft report will be circulated for comments and additions to the IUR/MODARIA II subgroup members.

The IUR/MODARIA II group again confirmed their intention to publish a special issue of JER and an IUR report. Next meeting is foreseen in October/November in Vienna during MODARIA II. The meeting was concluded with a visit at the Environmental Radioactivity Dept of the Greek Atomic Energy Commission, the Environmental Radioactivity laboratory of DEMOKRITOS including their Air sampling and Aerosol microphysics station run at the site part of the Global Atmosphere Watch and Ro5 networks.

  • Kick-off workshop
    Madrid, Spain - March 30th-April 2nd, 2016

A Kick-off workshop has been held in Madrid from March 30th to April 2nd, 2016, with 22 scientists from 14 countries who collectively set up a programme of work for the coming years.  

See the Programme of work of the IUR Task Group on Radioecology in arid regions: Terms of reference and concept paper

See the list of participants at the Kisck-off Workshop in Madrid.

Professionals / Scientists