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Fauna of radiation-hazardous territories


Research of radioecological state of fauna of radioactively hazardous sites

Tech Area / Field

  • ENV-EHS/Environmental Health and Safety/Environment
  • ENV-MIN/Monitoring and Instrumentation/Environment

3 Approved without Funding

Registration date

Leading Institute
National Nuclear Center of the Republic of Kazakstan / Institute of Radiation Safety and Ecology, Kazakstan, Kurchatov


  • University of Salford, UK, Salford\nYasuo Onishi Consulting, LLC, USA, WA, Richland

Project summary

At the present time there are territories in the world with complicated radiological situation due to nuclear tests carried out before and development of power-generating sector associated with nuclear fuel cycle, makes topical issues related to problems associated with life safety at adjacent territories, including production of safe food products. Incidents of last decades, such as accidents at “Mayak” enterprise, accident in Chernobyl and on Fukushima serve as an example of the fact that people still can’t feel secure concerning negative consequences of nuclear field.

As a rule, at territories subjected to radioactive contamination an emphasis is manly made on assessment of radionuclides concentration in such components of natural environment as plants, surface waters and atmospheric air. Increased attention is also paid to farm products. At the present time quite a large volume of data on radionuclides transfer into wild and farm plants and animal products is accumulated, while for such an important component of natural environment as fauna there is no data on transfer parameters. Generally the information on radionuclides content in wild animals bodies in various periods after radiological accidents is available. Besides that, scientists are usually limited by studying concentrations of 137Cs radionuclide in animal organisms due to relative simplicity of radionuclide analysis. 90Sr radionuclide remains less studied. At the same time there is almost no information on Pu, Am and tritium radionuclides.

Yet, researches of radioecological state of some inpidual Semipalatinsk Test Site fauna representatives carried out show that in bodies of some animal species specific activity of 90Sr radionuclide can reach over 7,8×105 Bq/kg, 3Н – more than 1×105 Bq/l of free water in flesh. This fact means that animals can significantly affect redistribution of radionuclides in environment.

Besides that, during the last decade a shift from anthropocentric conception of radiation safety to biocentric (where protection should extend to biota) principles of safety provision took place, the necessity of unified methodological approach to radiation protection of both humans and biota was proven. Therefore in construction of NPP possible impact on biota, including fauna of the construction area is assessed. United Nations Scientific Committee for the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UN SCEAR) have noticed that due to large variety of living organisms it is not possible to consider all representatives of flora and fauna even for some exact site of the territory. Therefore according to modern approaches of International Commission on Radiation Protection (the ICRP) and International Atomic Energy Agency (the IAEA), radiation impact on biota needs to be assessed for a limited number of reference organisms, those are referent in assessment of ionizing radiation impact on biota. So the information on parameters of radionuclides transfer is important for use in prediction models of assessment of risks for biota, associated with different NPP operation modes (normal and emergency mode, decommissioning).
Obtaining forecasted values of radionuclides transfer into tissues and organs of animals, those are objects of amateur and commercial hunting, are of high practical significance for grounded assessment of radiation exposure on population, living on territories with complicated radiological situation.

Studying of such parameters of artificial radionuclides transfer, can be carried out at the territory of Semipalatinsk Test Site, where during testing nuclear weapons and adverse factors of radioactive substances sites with high concentration of radionuclides concentration in natural environment – soil, vegetation, water were formed. As a rule, such sites are associated with epicenters of nuclear explosion at "Experimental Field" site, where surface nuclear tests were made, channels of radioactively contaminated streams from testing tunnels of "Degelen" site (Panitskiy, 2015), venues of testing warfare radioactive agents at "4" and "4А" sites and venues of underground excavation nuclear explosions – the "Atomic Lake ", "Telkem 1", "Telkem2". There was also found, radioactive contamination of test site territory in form of "plumes" from fallouts as a result of radioactive clouds’ passage, (Larionova, 2013). So the STS has various landscapes, having radionuclide contamination of natural environment components in particular by 239+240Pu and 241Am transuranium radionuclides and 3Н radionuclide. Anecdotal data on transuranium radionuclides in bodies of wild animals were obtained based on values close to background, while the STS territory has some sites with high contamination of environmental components by transuranium radionuclides.

Besides the above, from all test sites used for testing nuclear weapons, Semipalatinsk Test Site is the only one open for researches. At the present time complex researches of virtually all natural components of STS ecosystems(land-cover, ground and surface waters, atmospheric air) are being carried out. However an impact of nuclear tests carried out on one of the most important components of the environment (fauna) still remains almost unstudied. Researches in this area were limited by seasonal researches dedicated to comparative assessment of fauna complexes species persity at the STS territory. As for assessment of radiation state of STS fauna itself, it was not carried out before due to some reasons. Researches of this kind are vitally needed in further activity in the area of solving ecological issues of the region and getting parameters of little-studied radionuclides, such as transuranium radionuclides and 3H transfer into organs and tissues of animals.

Due to the fact that, in the world data getting information on 137Cs radionuclide content in organisms of animals of the territories contaminated as a result of radiological accidents is mainly emphasized, this project should be aimed at revealing peculiarities of radioecological state of fauna of radioactively hazardous objects, with various landscapes peculiarities and various characters of radioactive contamination. So the Project goal is researching of peculiarities of radioecological state of fauna of radioactively hazardous territories (by the example of the STS).

Within the project proposed the following 3 main tasks can be emphasized:
1. Assessment of animal species persity at radioactively hazardous objects of the STS.
2. Determining radiation parameters of inpidual fauna representatives inhabiting radioactively hazardous objects (by the example of the STS)

3. Development of methodology for assessment of possible content of radionuclides in organisms of various animals, inhabiting radioactively hazardous objects.


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