Ecological Risk Analysis: Radionuclides and the associated ecological risks
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Radionuclides and the associated ecological risks


Oak Ridge National Laboratory has a long history of evaluating the environmental fate and ecological effects of radionuclides. Recent efforts have focused on applying the principles and practices of ecological risk assessment to the field of radioecology. This developed out of the necessity to include radionuclides as potential stressors in risk assessments of hazardous waste sites at locally-managed Department of Energy facilities. Early assessments used standard formulas to estimate the radiation dose rates to assessment endpoint organisms. These formulas were then used to develop a set of screening benchmarks for aquatic biota.

Recently, Oak Ridge National Laboratory has been working with the Department of Energy's Office of Environmental Policy and Guidance (Air, Water and Radiation Division) to develop tools and guidance for complying with the Department's requirements and recommendations for protection the environment from ionizing radiation. The tools include screening values for aquatic and terrestrial biota. The guidance covers technical and policy issues for using the screening values for Department of Energy compliance and other potential applications. All of the tools and guidance are presented in the Department of Energy Technical Standard and associated papers listed below.

In a related effort, Oak Ridge National Laboratory is conducting a pilot project for the Department of Energy's Office of Long Term Stewardship in which the aforementioned tools for compliance are tested at two radiologically contaminated sites. This project is entitled “Implementation and Validation of a Cost-Effective Approach for Evaluating Radiation Impacts to Biota at a Long-Term Stewardship Site.” It is scheduled for completion in December 2002.

Reports & PapersLinks

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Jones, D. S., and P. A. Scofield. 2003. Implementation and Validation of a DOE Standardized Screening Method for Evaluating Radiation Impacts to Biota at Long-Term Stewardship Sites. Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN. ORNL/TM-2003/76.

Jones, D., S. Domotor, K. Higley, D. Kocher, and G. Bilyard. 2003. Principles and issues in radiological ecological risk assessment. J. Environ. Radioactivity 66(1-2):19-39.

DOE (U.S. Department of Energy). 2002. A Graded Approach for Evaluating Radiation Doses to Aquatic and Terrestrial Biota. Final Technical Standard. Project No. ENVR-0011. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Energy.

Jones, D. S. 2000. Radiological benchmarks for effects on aquatic biota at the Oak Ridge Reservation. Hum. Ecol. Risk Assess. 6(5):789-807.

Barnthouse, L. W. 1995. Effects of Ionizing Radiation on Terrestrial Plants and Animals: A Workshop Report. Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN. 24 pp. ORNL/TM-13141.

Blaylock, B.G., M.L. Frank, and B.R. O'Neal. 1993. Methodology for Estimating Dose Rates to Freshwater Biota Exposed to Radionuclides in the Environment. Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN. ES/ER/TM-78.


Biota Dose Assessment Committee (BDAC) - Primary site for the DOE Technical Standard that provides a graded approach for evaluating radiation doses to aquatic and terrestrial biota.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)

International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) - An independent Registered Charity, established to advance for the public benefit the science of radiological protection.

International Union of Radioecology (IUR) - a non-political and non-profit scientific organization for professional radioecologists.

National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements (NCRP)

Periodic Table of the Isotopes - General resource page on radioactivity

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)

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Comments or requests for more information should be sent to Rebecca Efroymson (
Last Updated: April 8, 2003

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