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Project Summary

Concept and objectives

The Call for this project describes the objective as “to develop a methodology for optimising the design of monitoring systems for timely and effective decision making in an emergency”. This objective together with the expected impact (“A tool for making more efficient use of monitoring resources and improving the bases for decision making in emergencies, in particular in the context of the need to upgrade/replace during the next decade many of the monitoring systems installed post-Chernobyl”) can be seen so that the project shall provide all relevant information needed in design of monitoring strategies and show how this information can be used in planning of monitoring systems in an optimised way. Optimising here can be seen as optimisation between the overall costs of monitoring (investments, running costs and personnel costs) on one hand and monitoring information needed by the end-users (decision making) and other needs (social, political, etc.) on the other hand. Monitoring information consists of monitored data, obtained by monitoring systems, and additional information gained by some supporting tools applied to monitored data (interpolation, data assimilation, automatic mapping, etc.). Such supporting tools have been developed in the former Framework Programmes.

In case of nuclear or radiological emergency the fast delivery of comprehensive information on the existing or future radiological situation is essential for decision making in the early stage of an emergency. Whatever tools are available they have to be judged if they improve decision making. Monitored data and modelled information, used independently or together, have to support decision making allowing the authorities to initiate appropriate measures at the right time. Up to now, monitoring and modelling is often used separately which can be easily recognised looking at support organisations with departments for monitoring and departments for emergency response. In planning new monitoring networks, systems or strategies the same modelling tools can be applied to achieve optimised results. This project collects all relevant factors needed in planning monitoring systems (stationary or mobile) and develops a methodology that uses the supporting modelling tools in order to design optimised systems for different monitoring purposes. 

Decision making requires the usage of both monitored data and modelled information as they complement each other. Ideally both information are available in one platform and are combined for the usage of the decision making team. Emergencies can be subdivided into several phases with different needs for decision making. In the pre-release phase, prognostic information from models build the basis for decision making and in the later phases following the release phase, monitored data becomes more and more important. Models are in this stage mainly used for the prognosis of the evolution of the contamination but not longer to define its location and characteristics. In the release phase, modelling and monitoring are both important and recent work has combined both information via data assimilation approaches aiming to improve the analysis of the radiological situation and the forecast of the modelling systems. Important in this respect is that monitoring and modelling information fit together as otherwise no added value can be expected.

Following the Chernobyl accident, many countries have set up monitoring networks of different types and densities and with different objectives. In Germany, the main purpose of the automatic network of ambient dose rate was to capture the path of a cloud coming from outside the country. Other European member states followed different strategies resulting in a very patchy density when compared over Europe. This ranges from 11 fixed stations for example in Denmark up to more than 1000 stations in Germany. More than 20 years later European countries are in the process evaluating the current monitoring networks with the objective to define new goals given new monitoring techniques available but also taking into account the well advanced capability of decision support systems. Countries such as Finland, France and Germany are in the process of upgrading the networks. In this respect also resources necessary to maintain the network have to be considered.

One of the objectives of the Euratom FP7 Fission and Radiation Protection Programme is a joint European action aiming at more coherent national monitoring systems and decision support systems, and more fluent exchange of data and information between the European countries. This is of special importance since Europe is the most complicated region in terms of the number of nuclear/radiological facilities and number of countries with different languages, politics and cultural backgrounds. Therefore this project aims to emphasise the European and regional dimensions in place of national arrangements.

Harmonisation of these networks is extremely valuable with respect to approaches used and equipment installed. Therefore, we aim at developing a European methodology which allows quantifying the pros and cons of a monitoring system to be installed on a local, national or regional level. Defining monitoring strategies has to account for the given situation, among others, the phase of the accident, release scenario and location as well as the criteria of the decision making team. In this respect, there is no single strategy or information which is appropriate for all possible scenarios.

It is important to stress again, that this consortium is convinced that monitoring and modelling capabilities have to be combined and cannot be treated independently. Nevertheless, the analysis and also the development of monitoring strategies will always consider the simulation capability in each European country. Having no Decision Support System (DSS) installed, the results of this study can be still used to explore and optimise monitoring strategies. Nevertheless, optimised results are expected for the combination of both.

The objective of this project is to improve decision making by developing a methodology and planning tool for optimising monitoring systems in Europe. This will be achieved via:

  • Elicitation of the most important criteria for the decision making in the early phase of an emergency
  • Evaluation existing information on monitoring strategies
  • Analysis of the equipment available at present
  • Project recent development in monitoring equipment for the use in a strategy in future
  • Analysis of the most important release scenarios and define which monitoring strategy is most effective for this
  • Definition of success criteria for the operation of monitoring networks depending on country specific needs and demands
  • Providing simulated “measurements” for testing
  • Development of an accident scenario data base for the collection of all relevant information for a given event/scenario combination
  • Development of an easy to use tool for defining the best strategy including other factors such as monetary, social and political constraints

Demonstration of the applicability of the methodology in country-specific scenarios.

Progress beyond the state-of-the-art

This project provides the unique opportunity to fully integrate monitoring and simulation capability in design of off-site monitoring systems in an emergency situation. Despite the large effort made in the past European Frameworks, monitoring and modelling are areas which are – even organisationally in many organisations – separated up to now. Decision support systems such as ARGOS and RODOS are under way to implement data assimilation capabilities for operational use allowing to consider both monitoring data and simulation results for the analysis and the future predictions of the radiological situation. However, the existing monitoring information to be used is by far not optimised for the application in these tools. Our existing data assimilation (DA) tools, on the other hand, will efficiently and effectively combine measured and predicted contamination from a optimal designed monitoring network, and in this way strengthen the decision support in case of an emergency.

With the results of this project, the planning of monitoring networks can for the first time be carried out in combination with other capabilities in emergency management available in European Member States. Integrating these existing simulation capabilities will allow to optimise the number of stations as it is expected that the existing advanced decision support systems and the tools which will be improved in the frame of this project allow compensating gaps in the spatial dimension of the monitoring network.

For the first time a comprehensive data base will be developed which contains all necessary information to design a monitoring network from scratch of modifying an existing one with a sound scientific basis. It will consider the needs of the end user in terms of radiation protection capabilities together with other important aspects such as public perception, state of the art of monitoring systems and costs.

The project combines the unique experience gained within other FP6 projects such as EURANOS, INTAMAP, AIRDOS and EURADOS using the experience gained there and integrating this to achieve the goals of DETECT.