Environment protection: The current challenge in radioecology
Institute of Radioprotection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN), General Directorate (DG) and International Union of Radioecology (IUR) Blg 229, Centre d’Etudes de Cadarache 13115 St Paul-lez-Durance France
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Radioecology, a multifaceted scientific discipline which addresses environmental issues relevant to radioprotection, has for a long time been focused on environmental transfers through the environment to feed the needs of human radioprotection. This quite anthropocentric initial scope is now moving to a more ecocentric view capable of assessing ecological risk mediated by ionising radiation. The central issue consists in reaching an ability to understand the effects of radiation on the environment components, from individual organisms up to populations of species and ecosystems, together with their interaction with the abiotic compartments. Dominated by operational goals, the system of radiological protection of the environment which is under development emphasises a concept based upon reference organisms supported by traditional toxicological data on individual organisms. Whilst there are immediate advantages to this approach (pragmatism, consistency with other approaches in use for man and biota), there are also clear limitations which need to be acknowledged and further considered. The most important probably is to rely on effects data gathered almost exclusively for individual organisms to meet protection goals which are usually set at population and ecosystem levels. Overcoming this limitation leads to scientific and methodological approaches featuring the ecosystem concept.
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