STAR - Strategy for Allied Radioecology - was a Network of Excellence under the EC FP7, dedicated to strengthening the science of radioecology in Europe. Highlights from the activities undertaken to achieve this are given below.
Integration, knowledge management and dissemination:
The first result of STAR was the creation of a platform for the promotion of radioecological research in Europe (the ALLIANCE) in 2012. In parallel to this, STAR created
- an inventory of infrastructures, databases and sample archives
- a virtual laboratory
- European Observatory sites for radioecological research
- a long-term Strategic Research Agenda for radioecology
- a reference website for radioecology: the Radioecology Exchange www.radioecology-exchange.org
- conferences/special sessions at conferences dedicated to radioecology
The STAR Mobility, Education and Training programme has made an important contribution to the education and recruitment of students to radioecology in Europe, as well as strengthening international recognition of the importance of radioecology as a relevant discipline for other areas of nuclear science.
The human and environmental radiation protection frameworks have evolved somewhat independently and created parallel protection systems over the years. An integrated system for both humans and the environment would be an advantage for regulators. STAR seeked to develop the scientific means for the practical implementation of integrated risk assessment through a number of activities:
- the use of Features, Events and Processes analysis with Interaction Matrices
- conceptual reflection on the feasibility of integrating the frameworks
- feasibility of iteratively improving an integrated model by mechanistically modelling key processes
- development of extrapolation techniques
- evaluating methods in wildlife dosimetry
Joint screening models for radiological risk assessment was thus developed. First, the CROM8 code was released where human and environmental risk assessment can be performed via different modules within the same tool. Next, this was further developed to the CROMERICA code that implements state-of-the-art approaches for improvements in performance, usability and maintainability. This creates a flexible dose assessment tool for both humans and the environment. An alpha version of CROMERICA was presented at the STAR final dissemination event in June 2015. Further development will continue after the end of STAR. Both codes are freely available at ftp://ftp.ciemat.es/pub/CROM
Radiation protection in a multi-contaminant context:
A Biotic Ligand Model (BLM) was developed for uranium (U) and cadmium (Cd) for three living aquatic organisms. Extensive datasets on the accumulation of U by salmon and duckweed, and the toxicity of U to salmon, duckweed and water flea under varying chemical exposure conditions and in mixtures with Cd were derived. Distinct, common patterns of accumulation and toxicity in response to changing pH were found. Development of BLMs for all three organisms confirmed that (1) the bioavailability of U to organisms exhibits statistically significant variations in response to the exposure medium used, and (2) the variations in U bioavailability can be described by organism-specific BLMs that account for the chemical form of U and competition of binding sites with major cations. For water flea, the U and Cd toxicity dataset was used to explore the underlying mechanism of interaction with the support of DEBtox modelling (Dynamic Energy Budget). From a risk assessment perspective, the most important thing to ascertain is whether there are potential interactive effects. Such effects were proven, mostly antagonistic but also synergistic effects. Developing a cumulative risk assessment framework for mixtures, including radionuclides, is consistent with the general Ecological Risk Assessment framework used for contaminants.
A number of low-dose exposure experiments for gamma and alpha radiation were performed on nematodes, fish, plants and water fleas. The experiments provided new data on survival, growth and reproduction effects over full life cycles during chronic low dose radiation for duckweed, water fleas and nematodes while data were acquired on molecular and cellular responses in fish, water fleas, plants and nematodes. The DEBtox approach was used on nematodes and water fleas to study radiation effects. Finally, a classic population modelling approach (Leslie matrices) was used to calculate population risks in 12 species representing 4 taxonomic groups and to test population risk for a fish group by exploring the diversity in population responses among 21 fish life cycles.
STAR made considerable progress in enhancing the long-term sustainability of radioecology in Europe. The work ensured an integration of the key radioecologists in Europe, a cooperation now expanding through the ALLIANCE. Use www.star-radioecolgy.org to access all results
STAR is a Network of Excellence (NoE) composed of 9 European organisations that have agreed to integrate resources and expertise to enhance European competences in radioecology. The work is divided into 7 work packages (WP) of which WP3-5 are devoted to i nnovative research:
WP1 Network Coordination
WP2 Integration and Infrastructure
WP3 Integrated Human and Non-human Radiation Protection
WP4 Radiation Protection in a Mixed Contaminant Context
WP5 Ecologically Relevant Low Dose Effects
WP6 Mobility, Train ing and Education
WP7 Knowledge and Data Dissemination
To help address the challenges presented by STAR research, our Joint Programme of Activities includes a powerful integrating mechanism in the form of Observatories for Radioecological Research. One o r more contaminated field sites will be chosen to enable the NoE to test hypotheses and approaches developed by the research WPs. Focused research at common sites will lead to the iterative improvement of methods and models, leading to an enhanced underst anding of radionuclide behaviour and effects. All data collected from these sites will be made accessible from the STAR webportal, to the benefit of the wider radioecological community. Over the years, the collective efforts will result in a valuable Euro pean data set derived from the Observatory locations. Such a pooled, consolidated effort will maximize the sharing of data and resources as well as provide excellent training and education sites.
The integration developed by STAR will support the radioeco logical needs of industry, national authorities, non-governmental organisations, scientists, and the public. STAR will significantly improve accessibility to key radioecological facilities, integrate research programmes, and initiate involvement of the wi der international scientific communities.
It is envisaged to transition STAR to a more sustainable, long-term, integrative structure represented by the ALLIANCE consortium at the end of the STAR project.