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Use of isotope hydrology to characterize groundwater systems in the vicinity of Nuclear Power Plants (F33022)

(Source: www.wikipedia.org)

CRP at a Glance

Nuclear electricity generation represents the second largest source of energy in the world. Both developed and developing countries express interest in using nuclear energy, and many have announced plans to acquire capabilities. Nuclear Power Plants (NPPs) are usually built along coastal areas or along rivers for reactor cooling purposes. Although the NPPs site selection and operation follows very strict safety guidelines, there is a possibility of unforeseen accidents, which may result in the release of radioactive materials into the environment or cause contamination of groundwater. The nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi in 2011 in Japan revealed pitfalls in prevailing practices in preventing local contamination.
A good knowledge of the behaviour of water circulation in and around NPPs is a prerequisite for facility design and an essential input for performance and safety assessment. This CRP aims to explore the use of isotope hydrology tools, like noble gases isotopes, together with conventional nuclear tracers (e.g., 18O, 2H, 13C, 14C, 3H) to better understand the hydrogeological conditions in the vicinity of NPPs and to provide basic information that may be used for predicting the fate of radioactive contaminants released into groundwater in case of a radiological accident and/or during normal operations. The CRP seeks to improve expertise among participating Member States in the implementation of isotopes for the assessment of groundwater protection near NPPs, providing an important asset in safety regulations for NPPs site selection and operation.

Nuclear Component

Measurement of stable and radioactive isotopes in groundwater (e.g., 18O, 2H, 3H, 13C and 14C of DIC, noble gas isotopes) which exhibit systematic spatial and temporal variations as a result of isotope fractionations and radioactive decay and accompany water-cycle phase changes and diffusion.

CRP Overall Objective

To develop guidelines for better hydrogeological characterisation of local and regional groundwater systems in the vicinity of nuclear power plants using environmental isotopes and conventional techniques.

Groundwater sampling (Photo: T.Matsumoto/IAEA))

Noble gas analytical system (Photo: T.Matsumoto/IAEA)

Specific research objectives

  1. Assess and improve the use of environmental isotopes to investigate groundwater recharge source(s), recharge area, and recharge and discharge relationships in the proximity of NPPs.
  2. Improve the interpretation of hydrological processes, pathways and interactions between groundwater and surface water bodies to determine their exchange regimes and to estimate corresponding amounts of the exchanges.
  3. Determine groundwater flow directions, ages near NPPs and velocity in order to define transport paths and travel times of radioactive material to reach the source of consumption from the point of release in case of an accident.
  4. Prepare conceptual models and help in the development and calibration of mathematical models to simulate groundwater flow and contaminant mass transport (e.g., tritium) in the vicinity of NPPs.

Expected research outcomes

  1. More experienced Member States in the implementation of environmental isotopes for the assessment of groundwater circulation near NPPs.
  2. Better understanding of possible impact of an accidental radioactive release on groundwater providing an important asset in safety regulations for NPPs site selection and operation.

How to join the CRP?

Please submit your Proposal for Research Contract or Agreement directly to the IAEA’s Research Contracts Administration Section, using the form templates (http://cra.iaea.org/cra/forms.html) on the CRA web site (preferably via email): research.contracts@iaea.org