What is CEEPRA?
CEEPRA (Collaboration Network on EuroArctic Environmental Radiation Protection and Research) is a network of national research institutions and authorities working with radioactivity-related issues in the arctic and sub-arctic areas of Europe. The CEEPRA network is the main result of a project acting under the same name, aimed to improve the emergency preparedness for possible nuclear accidents in the region by networking. The project was funded by the Kolarctic ENPI CBC programme of EU. The duration of the project was three years, from March 2011 to March 2014.
The EU ENPI programmes were implemented on the external borders of the EU. The programme period of Kolarctic ENPI CBC was 2007-2013 and it was targeted to projects in the arctic regions of Finland, Sweden and Norway and on the north-western part of Russia. A requirement for a CBC programme was that one of the project partners was from the north-western Russia, and one partner was from the arctic area of either Finland or Sweden. All projects acting under the Programme had one common aim: to enhance the cross-border cooperation between the participating countries. More information about Kolarctic ENPI CBC Programmes is provided here.
Background: Radioactivity in the EuroArctic Region
During the 1950s and 1960s, nuclear weapon testing including tests conducted on Novaya Zemlya in the Barents Sea resulted in global fallout that increased levels of radioactivity in humans, animals and the environment in the Arctic region. The Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant accident in 1986 caused additional radioactive fallout to the Arctic region, raising levels of contamination again in reindeer, wild game, freshwater fish, mushrooms and berries, and affecting reindeer herding in contaminated areas. The level of radioactive contamination in natural food products has been closely followed in the Arctic as such items are widely collected and used by the people living in these areas.
The current level of radioactive contamination in the EuroArctic region is low, but there exist many potential sources of further contamination both within the region itself and further afield. These include current and planned nuclear power plants, stores of nuclear waste and spent nuclear fuel, military and civilian nuclear powered vessels, dumped nuclear material and planned use of floating nuclear power plants. In addition, radioactive contamination has been transported and continues to be transported to the Arctic region by ocean currents as a result of authorised discharges from nuclear fuel reprocessing facilities in the UK and France.
The behaviour, occurrence and movement of radionuclides in Arctic ecosystems may differ from more temperate regions due to extreme climatic and environmental conditions and short food chains such as lichen-reindeer-man may result in higher exposures to people living in Arctic regions from radioactive contamination. Exposure to radioactivity also occurs from levels of naturally occurring radionuclides in the environment and in food and it is important to consider exposures from radioactive contamination against natural background exposures which can be particularly high (e.g. from Radon). Commonly monitored manmade radionuclides include technetium-99 (99Tc), cesium-137 (137Cs), strontium-90 (90Sr), americium-241 (241Am), plutonium-238 and plutonium-239,240 (238Pu and 239,240Pu). Commonly monitored naturally occurring radionuclides include radium-226 and radium-228 (226Ra and 228Ra), lead-210 (210Pb) and polonium-210 (210Po).
The Arctic region in the spotlight
The attention on Arctic environments, development and geopolitics has never been greater as the effects of climate change begin to be observed. Climate models predict greater warming in the Arctic than the global average, leading to implications for both the behaviour of radionuclides in Arctic ecosystems and potential sources of contamination. The shrinking ice-cover in the Arctic may enhance the development of oil and gas industries in the area, providing a potential source of “technologically enhanced naturally occurring radioactive materials” (TENORM), while opening up of the north-east passage may increase the transport of nuclear materials through the region. Changes in the permafrost, precipitation and extreme weather events may affect infrastructure related to nuclear activities, and lead to increased remobilisation of radionuclides from contaminated sediment or soil. Climate change may also affect the transfer and accumulation of radionuclides in food chains.The issue of environmental radioactivity is a common challenge for all nations and environmental monitoring and radiation protection should be considered both at a regional level and in a wider context. Finland, Norway and Russia have developed their own requirements for emergency preparedness, radiation protection and environmental monitoring, but the exchange of information and direct collaboration between these countries and their organisations and institutions should be increased. Through such direct cooperation the greater understanding and trust between these three countries would improve the collective possibilities to prevent risks and solve problems.