As part of the 6th Euratom-Framework Research & Development Programme, the European project ERICA (Environmental Risk for Ionising Contaminants: Assessment and Management) was launched in March 2004 and ended in February 2007, producing a series of positive results: update of the database on the effects of ionising radiation on non-human species; exploitation of this database to define ecosystem protection criteria; development of a method designed to characterise the ecological risk by analysing the exposure of fauna and flora to ionising radiation and the effects of such exposure. A range of questions on risk management and the decision-making process were also largely explored.
This project came at a time of international consensus aiming to develop methods to assess the risk that radionuclides represent for the environment, much in the same manner as that done for chemical substances. This project aimed to develop an integrated approach designed to assess the effects of radioactive contaminants on the environment. On a scientific, decision-making and societal level, this involved focusing on protecting the fauna, flora and ecosystems. To do this, ERICA was based on past knowledge acquired during the FASSET programme (5th Framework Research & Development Programme) in which IRSN was involved, and which formalised the conceptual framework needed to assess the environmental impact of radionuclides.
The working groups
The ERICA project was coordinated by the Swedish radiation protection authority (SSI) and brought together 15 different partners from seven European countries. The project was divided into five interconnected working groups (WP):
WP1: Development of assessment tools;
WP2: Development of methods designed to characterise and estimate the environmental risk;
WP3: Elaboration of recommendations supporting the demonstration of environmental protection against radioactive contaminants, including all managerial aspects and communication with stakeholders (end-user groups);
WP4: Application and testing of assessment methods developed for different in situ case studies;
WP5: General project management.
IRSN was particularly involved in the working group WP2, having also been the working group coordinator. Work consisted in deriving dose values (or dose rates) that have no effect on ecosystems. IRSN also contributed to WP4 Participating to the Loire river case study, in collaboration with EDF