Pan-European Project “COordination and iMplementation of a pan-European instrumenT for radioecology” (COMET)

Customer: European Radioecology Alliance (ALLIANCE) and STAR Project within the framework of the Seventh Framework Program (FP7) for radioecology development, European Commission

Objective: researching the issues of radiation effects in humans and in the environment, and strengthening pan-European initiatives through the development of radioecological research integration.

COMET in cooperation with European Platforms on preparedness for nuclear and radiological emergency (NERIS), low dose radiation risk research (MELODI) shall mostly deal with preparation for the implementation of HORIZON 2020 umbrella structure for radiation protection systems. In association with ALLIANCE and STAR project, this project envisages development of strategic research plans as a basis for producing advanced mechanisms related to the joint program of radioecological research (JPR). The research activities shall be implemented in collaboration with scientists from the states, which suffered from the most severe nuclear accidents. The project shall also develop mechanisms for dissemination of knowledge, advanced training to enhance opportunities of experts in European countries, their competence and skills in radioecology.

The Chornobyl Center is one of the project’s major participants and is responsible for assistance in implementing certain COMET Work Programs (WP) within the Chornobyl exclusion zone that has received the operating name “Chornobyl radiological observatory”.

In particular, the Work Programs include:

  • WP1 – Project management and coordination;
  • WP2 – Joint programming and implementation;
  • WP3 – Improvement and validation of radioecology models;
  • WP4 – Studying the effects of low radiation doses and risk assessment;
  • WP5 – Exchange of experience and trainings.

A range of works to further develop directions and plans of efforts and implement initial research activities within ChEZ was accomplished In 2014. In particular, distribution of model plant species (Arabidopsis thaliana) within ChEZ and on adjacent areas was assessed jointly with the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre (SCK-CEN) in the course of preparation for genetic research. Within the framework of preparing the research on studying radiation exposure of earthworms and jointly with the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, we assessed the diversity of earthworm species and their distribution within ChEZ. We also consulted representatives of Stockholm University (Sweden) on the possibilities of using ChEZ amphibians in radiobiological studies.

In 2015, 13 research, monitoring, regulatory and training organizations from 10 European countries and Japan, including the Chornobyl Centre, took part in the project. Within the framework of the project, the researches to study distribution of radionuclides in ecosystem components were conducted jointly with representatives of the University of Nottingham (UK).

Also, sampling within the exclusion zone to assess chronic effects in invertebrates was carried out in collaboration with representatives of the University of Stirling (UK).

In 2016, the following works were carried out within the project framework:

  1. Studying the role of epigenetic changes in the adaptation of plants to chronic radiation effects by the case of Arabidopsis thaliana (jointly with the Belgian Nuclear Research Center (SCK-CEN)).
  2. Assessing the role of epigenetic changes in amphibians’ adaptation to chronic radiation effects by the case of the tree frog Hyla arborea (jointly with Stockholm University (Sweden)).
  3. Assessment of epigenetic effects in the rainworms living in the conditions of ChEZ (jointly with the Norwegian University of Science and Technology).
  4. Assessing the effects of radiation and general environmental factors on the species diversity of terrestrial invertebrates (jointly with Prague University and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology).

5. Hosting the workshop “Thirty years after the Chornobyl accident: What do we know about the effects of radiation on the environment?”

In 2017 within the framework of the project a set of works was completed under the following subjects:

  1. Research of a role of epigenetic changes in adaptation of plants to chronic action of radiation by the example of Arabidopsis thaliana (jointly with the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre (SCK-CEN)).
  2. Assessment of a role of epigenetic changes in adaptation of amphibians to chronic action of radiation by the example of a common tree frog Hyla arborea (jointly with Stockholm University (Sweden)).

Works under the project are fully completed.