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Radiation Monitoring of Geological Environment


Development of Scientific Basis for Radiation Monitoring of Geological Environment: Data System and Criteria for Assessment of Present and Future Situation in Radioactively Contaminated Areas

Tech Area / Field

  • ENV-MIN/Monitoring and Instrumentation/Environment
  • ENV-OTH/Other/Environment
  • ENV-WPC/Water Pollution and Control/Environment

3 Approved without Funding

Registration date

Leading Institute
Institute of Dynamics of the Geosphere, Russia, Moscow

Supporting institutes

  • Institute of Global Climate and Ecology, Russia, Moscow


  • Pacific Northwest National Laboratory / Battelle, Putting Technology to Work, USA, WA, Richland\nLawrence Livermore National Laboratory, USA, CA, Livermore

Project summary

To assess the future sound management of the geological environment accommodating objects of enhanced risk (sites of underground nuclear testing (UNE), radioactive waste disposal (RW), and nuclear power plants (NPP)), it is necessary to develop criteria for geoecological zoning of such areas taking into account safe containment of radionuclides in the rock mass.

The Project objective is to develop a scientific basis for the radiation monitoring of the geological environment. To attain the objective set, it is proposed to carry out stage-by-stage office (scientific-methodical) and field studies.

The Degelen Mountain Massif located at the Semipalatinsk Test Site (STS) is proposed as a study area because it is characterized for a high level of knowledge and sufficient openness for interpretation of satellite and aerial photo-images. There were 181 mine workings (tunnels) constructed in the Degelen Mountains and used for 307 underground nuclear explosions (UNEs), including group shots and re-shots.

The condition of the rock mass before UNEs (background situation) will be assessed using generalization and systematization of unique information and published data. It is planned to identify a number of sites within the Degelen that are characterized for the unfavorable geoecological situation and select sites informative for experimental studies within the near-portal areas and across the slope surface that corresponds to the axis of a relevant tunnel.

Data of the monitoring performed immediately after UNEs, published data on the radiation situation, and data of the related remote sensing will be used to carry out a retrospective analysis of UNE impact on the geological environment and landscape. Processing of archival data of the areal engineering-geological survey, documentation of the mine workings, and results of special works performed prior to and after UNEs at some locations will make it possible to identify basic regularities of the man-disturbed situation development as this situation determines major pathways of the radionuclide migration.

Systematization of the radiation situation data obtained for UNE locations at different times will allow contouring potential aureoles of the radioactive contamination within the massif, associated with gradual transformation and re-distribution of the radionuclides with surface and ground waters in the geological environment and landscape. Particular attention will be paid to type, composition and sorption parameters of covering recent and man-caused formations developed within the identified zones of post-explosion deformation on the day surface as reported by archival data and successive interpretation of satellite images, and associated with various stages of the technogenic development of the Degelen Mountains (anthropogenic impact).

Analysis of the information obtained will be used to select informative sites for field expeditions, including a reconnaissance survey, choosing and tie-in of reference observation points, and sampling soil, surface and ground water. Along with conventional laboratory determinations of the physico-chemical properties of soil samples, chemical composition of water samples, radionuclide analysis of the soil and water samples, precision studies will be carried out to determine radionuclide ratios in soil and water.

Results of scientific-methodical studies and expeditions will serve as a basis for development of the basic criteria for the geoecological assessment of consequences of the man-caused destabilization of the rock massif and radioactive contamination of the geological environment.

The present Project is distinguished for significance of the problem addressed, i.e. development of the scientific basis for the radiation monitoring of the geological environment accommodating hidden radionuclide sources. Novelty of the Project consists of testing a proposed methodology for assessment of the geoecological effects of the man-caused destabilization of the UNE conduct areas. The Project proposed has no analogues and includes original research into combination of conventional methods for processing engineering-geological and radiometric data with LESSA software package for computer-aided interpretation of satellite images.

Specialists of IGD and IGCE were directly involved in the field and experimental works to study UNE impact on the STS geological environment and studies to assess radioecological effects of the Chernobyl accident. Their high skills will provide for objective statement of the problem addressed. Research under the Project will be fulfilled by the former weapon scientists.

Former weapon scientists and other participants of the Project have a number of publications in Russia and abroad related to integrated studies of UNE impact on the rock massif and assessment of the radioactive contamination of the environment due to accidental situations. Researches actively take part in international conferences.

Analysis of the archival information and data of field expeditions to the UNE sites will be of interest for international organizations dealing with issues related to RW utilization and safe operation of the RW storage facilities. It will contribute to development of systems for control of the radiation-ecological situation in areas of enhanced risk.


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