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SEMIRAD: Investigating a Former Soviet Nuclear Test Site

Wed., Oct. 19, 2016 3:00 p.m. - Wed., Oct. 19, 2016 4:00 p.m.

Location: CL 130

Abstract:  Shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the newly independent Republic of Kazakhstan requested the NATO Science for Peace programme to undertake an investigation of the radiological hazard presented by the 17,000 km2 former Soviet, Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site (STS). A study was initiated, the SEMIRAD project, that both investigated the radiological condition in selected locations within the site, supplied knowhow and equipment to Kazakh organisations and trained young radioecologists. Despite more than 400 nuclear explosions the vast majority of the site was little more contaminated that might have been expected as a consequence of global fallout. In contrast, the craters and lakes produced by nuclear explosions were contaminated by plutonium, tritium and fission products. The hazard presented by these to local farmers that had moved onto the site after the withdrawal of the Soviet Army was calculated. Similarly, the hazard presented by the residues of radiation dispersal device testing was assessed. In all cases it was concluded that the radioactive residues presented little hazard.

Speaker: Professor Nicholas Priest, until his recent retirement, managed the Radiobiology and Health Branch at the Chalk River Laboratory of the Canadian Nuclear Laboratory (formerly Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd). Before this he was: Professor of Environmental Toxicology and Head of the Decision Analysis and Risk Management research centre at Middlesex University, London; Business Development Manager Health and head of Harwell Biomedical Research at the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority; research scientist at the UK National Radiological Protection Board. His first degree (Wales) was in Zoology followed by a PhD in Medicine (London). His special interest is in the physiology, metabolism and toxicity of metals including stable metals but he has wider interests in radiobiology, radioecology and analytical radiochemistry. He is a member of the Royal Institute of Biology, and a Fellow of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry. In 2007 he was awarded the NATO Science Prize and in 2015 he was given a distinguished Achievement Award by the Canadian Radiological Protection Society.