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Research by geographers at the University of Stirling has been essential to the development of widely used radiological assessment tools.



Radioactive wastes are discharged from permitted sites such as hospitals, research facilities, nuclear power stations, and through decommissioning activities. Successful protection of the environment requires accurate assessment of the impact of each permitted site on wildlife.



Stirling research has been essential to the development of the most widely used radiological assessment tool ERICA (Environmental Risk from Ionising Contaminants management and Assessment). This database is the primary source of concentration ratio data for wildlife globally, used to predict the transfer of radionuclides into wildlife and allow for the calculation of internal dose.

A separate radiological dose assessment tool, the Noble Gas Calculator, allows for the calculation of external doses from radionuclides released into the atmosphere in a plume.

The research has also contributed to the International Commission on Radiological Protection’s Derived Consideration Reference Levels (DCRLs). An experimental radiation facility has been built at Stirling and is used to research ionising radiation effects at dose rates relevant to the DCRLs.



Internationally, ERICA allows over 40 countries to comply with international recommendations and effectively implement and develop their national environmental radiological protection policies. All UK environmental regulators recommend use of ERICA and the noble gas calculator.

The research on dosimetry and the use of DCRL has directly underpinned essential components of new International Commission on Radiological Protection guidance and UN IAEA General Safety Guidance. Stirling research demonstrated that at dose rates found in the Chernobyl exclusion zone and levels below the currently recommended DCRL, bumblebee queen production was significantly impaired, providing the scientific evidence for changing the internationally recognised DCRL benchmark.

Capacity building courses have been attended by more than 350 people. Since 2014, more than 25 Environment Agency regulators and nearly half of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency radioactive substances team have attended the ERICA training.


More information 

Institution: University of Stirling

Researchers: Professor David Copplestone, Dr Matthew Tinsley, Dr Katherine Raines

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Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) (2023) Creating global evidence-based radiological protection for the environment. Available at  Last accessed on: <date>