The kick-off meeting for the European CONFIDENCE  project took place in Karlsruhe, Germany on 16 and 17 February. CONFIDENCE was selected after a call for projects by CONCERT, the European joint programming tool whose goals include consolidating various radioprotection research projects . The Karlsruhe Institute of Technology runs CONFIDENCE, which involves 31 partners , including IRSN, from 18 European countries.
Confidence aims at reducing uncertainties in decision-making processes during a nuclear crisis, in order to better protect the population and minimize disruption to their lives. To achieve that goal, CONFIDENCE will use a multidisciplinary approach, dealing with every aspect of the radiological situation during a nuclear accident, from predicting the dispersion of radioactivity in the environment to implementing post-accidental decontamination solutions and assessing potential consequences for the population. This approach takes all the stakeholders' opinions into account (institutional structures, experts, NGOs, citizens, etc.). An objective is to improve decision-making tools and methods in the management of nuclear crises.
The project comprises six work packages (WP). IRSN is the leader of WP1, which will study the uncertainties tainting the technical evaluations made during a nuclear accident's emergency phase, that is, before and during the release period. The Institute also participates in WP2, which focuses on improving environmental measurements and evaluating the amount of radioactivity the population might receive if protective measures are not taken, especially in the event of emissions containing radioactive iodine. Lastly, IRSN contributes to WP4, which develops decision-making strategies to manage the post-accidental phase. These strategies are based on interactions with the stakeholders and aim at taking identified uncertainties into account in the decision process.
WP1 will use an approach called "ensemble forecast", which consists in performing many atmospheric dispersion simulations of accidental radioactive releases, in order to evaluate the radiological risk in a probabilistic way rather than with a deterministic response. Specifically, WP1 will list and assess parameters that are sources of uncertainty, not only input variables such as meteorological forecasts (wind direction, rain, etc.) and atmospheric emissions (composition, amount, time and duration), but also numerical approximations and limitations of the scientific models used. Then, the uncertainties will be evaluated and propagated through dispersion models, to quantify their effects on the radiological consequences (soil contamination, evaluation of doses to the population, etc.). The quantification of uncertainties could then be integrated to recommendations to protect the population. For example maps of probability of threshold exceedance for dose can be provided to decision makers, based on reference levels above which counter-measures (sheltering, evacuation, stable iodine intake) are recommended. The 2011 Fukushima accident and hypothetical accident scenarios in Europe will be studied. The end goal is to make this method operational during a crisis (short calculation time, simplicity of use, lack of information, etc.). WP1's simulation outputs will be used by other WPs, especially the panels of stakeholders brought together by WP4 and WP5.
After the CONFIDENCE project, tools, guidelines and recommendations will be issued to help experts making ensemble evaluations, and decision-makers taking these uncertainties into account in the event of an accident.
1. COping with uNcertainties For Improved modelling and DEcision making in Nuclear emergenCiEs
2. CONCERT-European Joint Programme for the Integration of Radiation Protection Research
3. KIT (Germany), BFS (Germany), NERC-CEH (United Kingdom), CEPN (France), CIEMAT (Spain), EPA (Ireland), EEAE (Greece), HMGU (Germany), IRSN (France), Mutadis (France), NMBU (Norway), NRPA (Norway), Zurich University (Switzerland), DH PHE (United Kingdom), DTU (Denmark), RIVM (Netherlands), SCK-CEN (Belgium), STUK (Finland), UMIL (Italy), VUJE (Slovakia), KNMI (Netherlands), APA (Portugal), Dialogik (Germany), Warwick University (United Kingdom), IST (Portugal), REC (Slovenia), DLO RIKILT (Netherlands), University of Extremadura (Spain), Met Office (United Kingdom), MTA EK (Hungary), NMI (Norway)