Science

Soil lysimeters (Nick Beresford)

Biogeochemical processes and radionuclide behaviour in soil-plant systems

Objectives:

  • Improve understanding of the biogeochemical behaviour of 129I, 79Se, 99Tc, & U isotopes in soils.
  • Critically assess the validity of models parameterised from short-term laboratory experiments.

The first component of the study will be to assess how the availability of radionuclides varies in soils over time. We will be investigating if short-term measurements can be used to predict the long-term availability of radionuclides in soils by testing our models in the Chernobyl exclusion zone (CEZ).

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Novel approaches to estimate the radionuclide activity concentrations in the human foodchain & terrestrial and aquatic wildlife

Objective:

• To evaluate uncertainties in wildlife exposure estimation by assessing how animals utilise contaminated environments.

The second component applies the concepts of ‘phylogeny’ and ‘ionomics’ and statistical modelling methods to describe uptake of a range of radionuclide into wildlife and human foods. The approach may make it possible to predict uptake for any plant or animal; this would be of great value as it is impossible to measure uptake for all wildlife, crops and farm animals.

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Exposure of wildlife under field conditions

Objective: 

• To evaluate uncertainties in wildlife exposure estimation by assessing how animals utilise contaminated environments.

The third component seeks to improve the quantification of radiation exposure by investigating how animals within the CEZ interact with their environment and the consequences of this for their exposure to radiation.

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Mechanisms of biological effect and trans-generational impacts of exposure to ionising radiation

Objective:

• Determine whether low level chronic exposure to radiation has significant effects on exposed populations in contaminated sites.

The final component aims to investigate if knowledge from experiments on animals and plants in the laboratory is a good representation of what happens in the real world. A key element of this work will be the consideration of transgenerational effects.

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In addition to our scientific research we will make a contribution to the one of the aims of the RATE programme which is to improve UK capacity in the field of radioactivity in the environment. 

Capacity building

TREE will establish and train a cohort of PDRAs and PhDs to help renew UK capacity in environmental radioactivity.

Our students will be trained in a wide range of essential skills including controlled laboratory studies and working in contaminated environments. They will benefit from being a member of a multidisciplinary team and opportunities to take placements with our beneficiaries and extensive range of project partners.

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Principal Investigator: Brenda Howard NERC-CEH