Radionuclide Ecotoxicology Laboratory (LECO)
IRSN, Institut de radioprotection et de sûreté nucléaire

Search our site :


Contact us :

En Fr

Enhancing Nuclear Safety


Research units 

Radionuclide Ecotoxicology Laboratory (LECO) 

The Radionuclide Ecotoxicology Laboratory (LECO) is located at Cadarache, in the south of France. Directed by Christelle Adam-Guillermin, it employs 23 people. In addition, 7 theses are in progress at the laboratory. A dozen of university studends are welcomed in the laboratory each year.






Context and research themes


LECO's missions include:


  • to identify, quantify and understand radionuclide transport and transfer mechanisms and the effects of said in continental aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems by means of experiments performed in controlled environments.
  • to establish the main physical, chemical and biological parameters that control the behaviour of radionuclides in the environment.
  • to acquire basic data and concepts with the aim of developing phenomenological models and enhancing understanding of observations in situ.


Works conducted by the LECO (literature reviews, experiments and associated modelling), within SECRE, are designed to acquire and complete knowledge required to assess the risk associated with the presence or emission – actual or forecast - of radionuclides in a continental environment under chronic or accident exposure conditions. These works are intended to generate or analyse currently lacking data regarding bioaccumulation and dose effect relationships in ecosystems and simultaneously improve knowledge concerning the transfer of radionuclides in a continental environment, notably knowledge necessary to assess repercussions and the health risk for humankind. The long-term objective is to offer and implement a general method intended to broaden the assessment of ecological risks to include radioactive substances, in association with the development of LM2E's environemental modelling platform, SYMBIOSE.



Research axes


Thus, LECO's research and development is organised around three closely linked main themes:


  • Theme 1: The biogeochemical behaviour of radionuclides in the "reservoir" compartments of ecosystems – soils and sediments.
  • Theme 2: Bioavailability of radionuclides and biological impact: terrestrial aquatic vegetable models.
  • Theme 3: Bioavailabiltiy and biological impact: animal models and consideration of the trophic relationship.


Most projects involving these themes fall within the context of the research problems, issues and strategy of the ENVIRHOM programme. Furthermore, a significant number of said projects were performed in the framework of a joint research programme conducted with EDF (CT4) and ANDRA (collaboration agreement). The majority of works performed in collaboration with operators had clear operational objectives, and involved experiments mainly designed to establish and/or specify values for base parameters (transfer coefficients such as Kd, foliar transfer factor, etc.) used by impact models.



Specialties and researchers


Researchers and engineers
Christelle Adam-Guillermin (researcher and head of laboratory)
Frédéric Alonzo (researcher)
Jean-Marc Bonzom (researcher)

Magali Floriani (Ingénieur de recherche)
Béatrice Gagnaire (researcher)
Catherine Lecomte (researcher)



Virginie Camilleri (Techniciean)
Isabelle Cavalie (Technician)


PhD students

Adeline Buisset (02/11/2011-01/11/2014)
Morgan Dutilleul (02/11/2009-31/10/2012)
Benoît Goussen (04/10/2010-03/10/2013)
Delphine Plaire (16/10/2010-15/10/2013)
Florian Parisot (October 2012 – September 2015)
Antoine Le Guernic (October 2012 – September 2015)
Kewin Gombeau (November 2012 – October 2015)



Facilities and techniques


Experimental facilities


LECO possesses several facilities (including two radioactive installations on the environmental protection list (ICPE) for contaminating simplified terrestrial and continental aquatic ecosystems with radionuclides.


LECO is equipped with :

  • an external irradiation facility in order to expose small sized organisms (ex. daphnies) or cellular cultures to dose rates of 1 to 1000 mGy/day.
  • a hydrobiology hall used for handling and managing large volumes of contaminated water (up to 1 m3)
  • three laboratories in a controlled area for experiments on emitter radionuclides such as 239Pu, 240Pu, 241Am, 237Np, etc.



Analytical resources


LECO resources in the metrology field can be divided into 5 major categories:

  • alpha beta and gamma spectrometry radionuclide measurement techniques
  • histological section preparation techniques (cryostat for photon microscope observation, sections for electron microscopy). 
  • techniques for radionuclide microlocalisation in biological tissue (autoradiography and X-ray probe coupled with a transmission electron microscope currently being acquired).
  • miscellaneous biochemical dosage techniques (quantification of methallothionines, separation of cytosolic proteins by low pressure chromatography, by HPLC, etc.).

Send Print
Etude de la radioactivité sur la croissance des plantes (arabidopsis)  Crédits : Noak/Le bar Floréal/IRSN




Christelle Adam-Guillermin, head of laboratory



Radionuclide Ecotoxicology Laboratory
BP 3
13115 Saint-Paul-Lez-Durance Cedex


By Phone: +33 (0)4 42 19 94 01


Send to a friend

The information you provide in this page are single use only and will not be saved.
* Required fields

Recipient's email:*  

Sign with your name:* 

Type your email address:*   

Add a message :

Do you want to receive a copy of this email?