Savannah River National Laboratory and a similar facility in the Ukraine will collaborate on a new series of studies into the lingering effects of radioactive contamination.
Under a new agreement, the U.S. Energy Department lab will join the Ukraine’s International Radioecology Laboratory in studies that will include research on the areas affected by the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident 24 years ago.
The two institutions have already worked on other studies that include research into how far contaminants can penetrate concrete building materials, and the distribution of contaminants in multistory buildings. Both of those studies were aimed at providing new insight into decontamination methods.
The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, which includes the abandoned industrial city of Pripyat, is heavily contaminated as a result of the accident. Unfit for residential or agricultural use, it is uniquely suited for studying radionuclide distribution, movement and effect.
“Even though Chernobyl is fundamentally different from any U.S. nuclear site, there is much we can learn in the surrounding area,” said Eduardo Farfan, the Savannah River National Laboratory's co-principal investigator on the project. “As a result of the accident, the nearby area has become a unique laboratory where we can observe how the environment changes and how animals and plants change over time following contamination.”