The scientific objectives of the Environment Unit are defined in keeping with both the Institute’s general strategy and the scientific and technical challenges with which it is faced. Apart from the fact that its research is “mission oriented” (cf.
Research organisation), its programmes are focused on a risk analysis approach that targets three key aspects 1) managing exposure (metrology, phenomenology of the behaviour of radionuclides), 2) assessing the dangers (characterisation of the detriment), and 3) analysing the risk through the combination of exposure and danger.
Research relating to environmental sciences is organised into four fundamental themes: themes 1 and 2, relative to the geosphere and which respectively encompass seismic uncertainties and the risks linked to radioactive waste disposal in deep geological layers, deal with issues that are particularly important in terms of the safety of nuclear facilities. The aim of themes 3 and 4, which cover exposure and the effects associated with radionuclides discharged into or already present in the environment, is to acquire the specific expertise, indispensable to the Institute’s remit, in terms of retrospective or predictive evaluation of the impact of radioactive substances on humans and ecosystems. Dealing with exposure and transfer, theme 3 encompasses all compartments, namely the geosphere, biosphere and atmosphere. Over the last ten years, it has evolved by not only considering these compartments as vectors of radioactive pollution from a source to humans, but it also adopts a more ecosystemic outlook, integrating plants and animals as targets exposed to ionising radiation. Closely linked with the previous theme, theme 4, more recently identified, is being developed in response to the current evolution of radiation protection, which is broadening its reach to include the protection of the environment in itself, in other words the structure and the functioning of ecosystems. Furthermore, considerable expertise has been developed over a period extending over several decades and thus represents a particularly important and original capitalisation of knowledge (case of themes 1 and 3).
Research laboratories and sections