The ecological relevance of current environmental protection from exposure to ionising radiation?
Copplestone D., Howard B.J., Bréchignac F.
International conference on radiocativity in the environment ; 2-5 sept 2002 ; Monaco
Historically, radiation protection has been focused on humans with the environment primarily considered as a conduit for the transfer of radionuclides. Recently, there has been an increased awareness of environmental issues in society and this is now influencing national and international priorities. An example of this is the ICRP's effort to revise and simplify the current system of radiological protection. Within this, a key objective concerning radiological protection of the environment is to determine whether there is or will be an impact from ionising radiation on biota .
The paper will consider the current approach of carrying out risk assessments based on dose considerations and the resulting implications for stochastic and deterministic effects. For example, the evaluation of stochastic effects in the vast majority of species is not an appropriate endpoint and therefore more ecologically relevant endpoints will be discussed.
The paper will discuss the relevance of an enhanced ecological perspective to the consideration of radiological protection of the environment. Particularly, it will compare and contrast the approaches used for other non-radioactive contaminants and relate these to protection of the environment from ionising radiation. We will consider the need for appropriate criteria for the assessment of harm taking into account ecological factors such as ecosystem resilience and redundancy. In light of society's concerns the question of maintaining or restoring ecosystem biodiversity and sustainability will be discussed. The relevance of natural selection and the presence of humans as an integral part of the environment will also be considered.
Possible approaches to address these issues related to environmental protection in general and from ionising radiation specifically, and the requirements for future action will be outlined.