Background and aims
During the IAEA conference held in Vienna in April 1996 - the tenth anniversary of the Chernobyl accident - the French and German Ministers of the Environment took the decision to launch a joint initiative aimed at studying the accident's impact.
Further to this decision, IPSN and GRS were respectively appointed by the French and German authorities to give concrete expression to the initiative. On July 17, 1997, IPSN and GRS signed a general agreement with a Ukrainian organization, the Chornobyl Centre for Nuclear Safety, Radioactive Wastes and Radioecology (Chornobyl Centre). The agreement defined three lines of research in the form of three scientific projects to be set up with institutes in the CIS (Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus) acting as local contractors:
- Project No. 1: the safety of the sarcophagus enclosing the damaged reactor
- Project No. 2: the accident's radioecological impact
- Project No. 3: the accident's impact on health.
The purpose of the general agreement is as follows:
- gather, validate and secure existing data in the above-mentioned fields and feed it into databases in order to provide decision-makers with information, define remediation strategies, develop subsequent scientific work, inform the general public ;
- provide the local CIS contractors appointed for this work with scientific and financial support.
IRSN's Department for the Protection of the Environment (DPRE) was entrusted with project No. 2, and the assistant project manager came from GRS. The "Radioecology" project has three main aims:
- gather radiological data from three different countries – Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus – into a single database called REDAC (RadioEcological Database After Chernobyl) ;
- use this data to verify and validate radionuclide environmental behavior models ;
- provide the authorities responsible for managing situations in the wake of a severe nuclear accident with the information they need to make decisions, based on analysis of this data.
Another of the aims set out in the general agreement is to provide funding for studies in the Commonwealth of Independent States to allow institutes and laboratories to pursue their activities in their own countries, thereby helping to sustain scientific expertise in the CIS.
IPSN and GRS, together with nuclear operators (EDF and the union of German utilities) provide half the funding for each country.
The period between July 1997 and November 1998 was devoted to dividing up the content of project No. 2 (Radioecology) between IPSN, EDF and GRS, and selecting CIS institutes to carry out the work. During this period, specific agreements were signed with the contracting institutes on nine topics, each representing a sub-project: environmental portrait of the contaminated area in the CIS ; initial contamination and its evolution ; waste interim storage, disposal and management ; radionuclide soil-to-plant transfer ; radionuclide plant-to-animal transfer ; radionuclide transfer through surface runoff ; radionuclide transfer in the freshwater environment ; impact of the accident on the urban environment and countermeasures ; countermeasures in agricultural, semi-natural, and natural environments.
The work, scheduled to last 3 years, actually began in March 1999 and should be completed in October 2002. The first "thematic" databases for each sub-project were delivered in March 2002. A database called REDAC (RadioEcological Database After Chernobyl) bringing these different elements together is under construction. Interaction is also under way with the "Health" project to ensure that database structures are mutually consistent. This effort also applies to data common to both projects. An intranet/internet site is under construction in Ukraine to make all data available to potential users through a supervised access system.