Effects on ecosystems at Chernobyl and Fukushima: remaining controversies and future research challenges

Horemans, N.; GiIbin, R.; Beresford, N.A.. 2022 Effects on ecosystems at Chernobyl and Fukushima: remaining controversies and future research challenges. [Lecture] In: 5th International Conference on Radioecology & Environmental Radioactivity, Oslo, Norway, 4-9 September, 2022.

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The current knowledge about the radiation effects on wildlife was used in the last decade to develop appropriate radiological environmental impact assessment tools and to derive the associated protection benchmarks. For example, dose rates for reference animal or plants within which there is likely to be some chance of the occurrence of deleterious effects (DCRLs, derived consideration reference levels) were suggested from 0.1-1 to 10-100 mGy day-1, accounting for the variation in sensitivity of the considered wildlife group (ICRP, 2008). However, most of the available knowledge used to derive such benchmarks is related to the risk to individual organisms, whereas populations, ecological function and structure, and the preservation of biodiversity are more relevant from a management perspective and should be the focus of future studies. On the other hand, there is currently a considerable scientific disagreement on the actual extent of the radiation effects on wildlife populations in contaminated areas. Many studies have reported no significant effects of radiation on wildlife (e.g., in the Chernobyl and Fukushima exclusion zones), whereas others reported significant radiation effects on different wildlife populations at very low dose rates (below natural background exposure). This questions the robustness, the representativeness, and the scientific consensus of actual diagnostic tools with regard to the long-term consequences of radiation exposure on non-human biota and ecosystems. This controversy has major implications for the robustness and the credibility of the system of radiation protection and resolving it would be a major game changer (cf. joint roadmap for radiation protection research, EJP CONCERT D3.7). The robustness of radiological environmental impact assessment can be improved by an actual understanding of ionising radiation effects on key ecosystem processes under realistic conditions, associated with a robust exposure assessment and considering other stress factors. The presentation will give some recent illustrations from the Alliance members research and will conclude with the major issues and research priorities to resolve the controversy with regard to the effects on wildlife reported in the Chernobyl and Fukushima exclusion zone. The Alliance belief is that a re-interpretation and achievement of robust, consensus-based data on the long-term ecological effects attributable to radiation in those emblematic contaminated territories would have a very significant impact on the confidence and credibility level of the radiation protection of the environment (e.g., robustness of ‘no-effect’ benchmark dose-rates).

Item Type: Publication - Conference Item (Lecture)
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Pollution (Science Area 2017-)
Date made live: 03 Feb 2023 16:45 +0 (UTC)

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