Field course in Chernobyl

Radiological protection of the environment, including man, has become a matter of significant public concern. It is, therefore, important to enhance and maintain European capacity and skills in radiochemistry, radioecology and radiation protection by establishing a dynamic interaction promoting effective collaboration between researchers, tool developers, regulators and industry.

Enhancing and maintain European capacity and skills in radioecology is one of the objectives of the COMET project. The field training courses play important role here, as they are an opportunity for trainees to take part in measurement campaigns and gather experience in developing sampling strategies and application of different measurement techniques.

Hands-on experience

The training course in Ukraine was held in September 2016 at one of the two radioecological observatory sites. It was focused on most aspects of environmental radiation impact and risks associated with the contamination from the Chernobyl accident in 1986. A lot of attention was given to the key processes, which control the behaviour of radionuclides in different ecosystems. These include basic concepts, variables, parameters and kinetics needed for modelling purposes. 

Four intensive days of lectures and exercises covered the whole process of impact assessment, starting with sampling strategies and protocol preparation, sampling campaign, sample pre-treatment and preparation, hot particles and the use of state-of-the-art measurement techniques. Special attention was paid to the problems caused by the uneven distribution of radionuclides in the environment due to the fallout of highly radioactive particles.

Application of appropriate methods is important for assessing the radiation impact and risk, especially in the case of the complex mixture of radionuclides from the Chernobyl accident. Therefore, course included a variety of lab on radiochemistry, gamma, alpha, beta and liquid scintillation spectrometry, sequential extractions, autoradiography, fish sampling and dissection.

Particle hunt

Looking for hot particles

Looking for hot particles

Photo
V. Kashparov
Besides the lectures and lab activities, participants spent a day in the field, visiting the Chernobyl exclusion zone. One of the main sites was “Red Forest” - the 10 km2 area surrounding the Chernobyl nuclear power plant within the exclusion zone. The name "Red Forest" comes from the ginger-brown colour of the pine trees after they died following the absorption of high levels of radiation from the Chernobyl accident. In the post-disaster clean-up operations, a majority of the pine trees were bulldozed and buried in trenches. The trenches were then covered with a thick carpet of sand and planted with pine saplings. The experimental Chernobyl pilot site "Red Forest" is located on the top of one of the trenches. There, participants learned about sampling and fractionation of contaminated groundwater, selection of hot particles and determining the frequency of radiobiological effects of pine trees.

Soil, vegetation and wood samples were taken at another experimental site - Kopachi village. Participants also visited the evacuated town of Pripyat, where they could measure the inhomogeneous dose rate of radiation.

"I thought the fieldcourse in Chernobyl to be very interesting and informative, both lectures, laboratory work and the fieldcourse itself. The highlight of the course was the day we visited the exclusion zone of Chernobyl and got to see the power plant, but the ability to get to know people from all around the world was just as important to me."

Martine Digerud Melgård, student

Let’s do it again!

The number of participants was originally limited to 15 persons due to practical constraints. However, the overwhelming interest to the course made organizers reconsider this limitation and restructure lab exercises into parallel session, taking all 29 persons aboard. Participants represented eleven countries: Japan, Ukraine, UK, Spain, China, Norway, France, Czech Republic, Sweden, Finland and Austria.  Taking into account occupation profiles, 22 participants represented universities, 3 came from authorities and 4 came from research institutes.

Feedback from the participants showed that 100% of them thought we should organize this course on a regular basis and we will do our best to make that wish come true!

Participants in the “Red forest” ready for fieldwork

Participants in the “Red forest” ready for fieldwork

Photo
V. Kashparov

More photos from the course can be found on the web page of NUBIP.

Published 30. November 2016 - 11:03 - Updated 23. May 2017 - 19:10