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Research programmes

The PRIME project

[Research Project on the application of radioecological sensitivity indicators and multi-criteria methods to industrial site environments]

The PRIME project goal is to develop a multi-criteria analysis method that risk managers will find simple to use in characterising an area contaminated as a result of an industrial accident involving radioactive substances. A succession of work in France shows that it is essential for post-accident situation management to be based on early characterisation of the radiological state of the environment, addressed globally under a strategy that takes residents and their living conditions into account.

Developed through dialogue with experts, decision makers and regional authorities, this analysis method is original in its multi-criteria dimension - historically, traditional, single-criterion aid tools have been preferred.
It should be based on ranking radioecological sensitivity factors of a region in terms of radioactive pollution. These radioecological sensitivity factors of a region correspond to all environmental and anthropic (man's use of the region) parameters which influence (aggravate or limit) the consequences of radioactive pollution.

To develop this method, the PRIME project has broken down the problem into several questions:

  • Is the region around a nuclear site sensitive to accidental nuclear pollution based only on its distance from the source? Or are there criteria which express the variability of its sensitivity depending on the nature and use of soils?
  • What are the major criteria for people living in the region and how are they weighted among them? Which criteria may be used as a basis for decisions? 
  • Is a multi-criteria method a good way of editing these data and rendering them visible and accessible?

Four priority research areas investigated

These questions are applied to a study zone covering a radius of some fifty kilometres around three nuclear sites in the lower Rhone valley (the Cruas, Tricastin-Pierrelatte and Marcoule sites), an area likely to be reached by accidental releases, mainly atmospheric. Four research areas are investigated in priority.

"Understanding vulnerabilities": this involves identifying the sensitivity factors of a region with the "stakeholders" and explaining the relationships between these factors and sensitivity indicators of radioactive pollution (surface activity, specific activity, radioactivity flux, etc.).

"Risk assessment and ranking", where the aim is to develop a multi-criteria method of ranking these indicators and guide those in charge.

The "emergency plan", which aims to suggest a method for early characterisation of the sensitivity of the region as support for intervention preparation plans.

The "analysis of ways of involving the civil society in the risk management", by encouraging local information committees (CLIs) around nuclear sites (CLI at Marcoule and CIGEET Tricastin-Pierrelatte) and players in the region to participate in the PRIME project.

Expected results

Several results are expected:

  • new scientific elements to rationalise decision taking in the context of post-accident management. It must be possible to use the region characterisation method envisaged in PRIME to assess and subsequently justify the scale of interventions to be planned and/or measuring and monitoring strategies in a post-accident context.
  • a simplified representation of the effects of accidental radioactive contamination on a region, and an operational management tool shared by all those involved who in principle do not speak the same "language".
  • identification of the major study themes to estimate the radioecological sensitivity of a region, for which current information is poor or in a form that is far from practical to use.

The originality of PRIME: a multi-partnership

The project unites experts, industrialists, administrative and associative bodies, elected representatives and citizens around the theme of risk management:

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Project characteristics

> dates: 2007-2009

> Coordinator: IRSN

> Financing: IRSN, Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Land Use (MEDAD) under the Risk Decision Region programme

> Recognised by the competitiveness cluster Risk management and vulnerability of regions during Summer 2006

> IRSN units involved: LERCM ; LME ; LIMSI ; DOS



The PRIME project was awarded the price for best poster at the 6th National Radiological Protection Congress at Reims on 19-21 June 2007

More about

The PRIME project is one section of the SENSIB project which studies the radioecological sensitivity of regions


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