Dose assessment in environmental radiological protection: State of the art and perspectives

Karolina Stark, José Maria Goméz-Ros, Jordi Vives i Batlle, Elisabeth Lindbo Hansen, Karine Beaugelin-Seiller, Lawrence A. Kapustka, Michael D. Wood, Claire Bradshaw, Almudena Real, Corynne McGuire, Thomas G. Hinton

    Research outputpeer-review


    Exposure to radiation is a potential hazard to humans and the environment. The Fukushima accident reminded the world of the importance of a reliable risk management system that incorporates the dose received from radiation exposures. The dose to humans from exposure to radiation can be quantified using a well-defined system; its environmental equivalent, however, is still in a developmental state. Additionally, the results of several papers published over the last decade have been criticized because of poor dosimetry. Therefore, a workshop on environmental dosimetry was organized by the STAR (Strategy for Allied Radioecology) Network of Excellence to review the state of the art in environmental dosimetry and prioritize areas of methodological and guidance development. Herein, we report the key findings from that international workshop, summarise parameters that affect the dose animals and plants receive when exposed to radiation, and identify further research needs. Current dosimetry practices for determining environmental protection are based on simple screening dose assessments using knowledge of fundamental radiation physics, source-target geometry relationships, the influence of organism shape and size, and knowledge of how radionuclide distributions in the body and in the soil profile alter dose. In screening model calculations that estimate whole-body dose to biota the shapes of organisms are simply represented as ellipsoids, while recently developed complex voxel phantom models allow organ-specific dose estimates. We identified several research and guidance development priorities for dosimetry. For external exposures, the uncertainty in dose estimates due to spatially heterogeneous distributions of radionuclide contamination is currently being evaluated. Guidance is needed on the level of dosimetry that is required when screening benchmarks are exceeded and how to report exposure in dose-effect studies, including quantification of uncertainties. Further research is needed to establish whether and how dosimetry should account for differences in tissue physiology, organism life stages, seasonal variability (in ecology, physiology and radiation field), species life span, and the proportion of a population that is actually exposed. We contend that, although major advances have recently been made in environmental radiation protection, substantive improvements are required to reduce uncertainties and increase the reliability of environmental dosimetry.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)105-114
    Number of pages9
    JournalJournal of environmental radioactivity
    StatePublished - 1 May 2017

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