Mining sites and territories contaminated with uranium-radium production wastes tend to have high activity concentrations of both naturally occurring radionuclides (NOR), heavy metals, and rare-earth elements, and constitute a valuable field laboratory wh ere the effects of combined chronic exposures to radionuclides and conventional chemical pollutants on natural plant and soil invertebrate populations can be studied. Studies of such sites have provided evidence that the NOR can be of potential genetic an d ecological importance, but to date there has been no systematic field study investigation study of the impacts of the exposure on an ecosystem level (i.e, looking at impacts at a population and community level). Field work carried out under the EANOR pr oject will assess the ecosystem impacts of chronic exposure of plants and soil invertebrates to enhanced radioactivity and chemical pollutants.
Specific research activities include:
- Measurement of radionuclide and chemical contaminants in soils, plants and biota at the selected sites, including basic soil chemical characterisation
- Assessment of the internal and external doses to biota
- Assessment of plant and soil invertebrate population sizes and biodiversity
- Analysis of the effects of chronic e xposure using biological endpoints ranging from cellular and molecular (e.g.,aberration, DNA damage, immunohistochemistry, gene expression) to individual and population reproduction effects.
The data produced will be valuable to international activities looking at the impacts of ionising radiation on non-human species, where there is a widespread recognition of the need for information on chronic exposures and population and ecosystem level effects (e.g. EU project STAR www.star-radioecology.org). Work w ill contribute to practical regulatory challenges of carrying out risk assessments and environmental impact assessments in NOR areas, which are required as part of the licensing process for waste facililities.