Support From IAEA

RAS9078-1701362: Technical Cooperation Regional Meeting on Establishing an Environmental Monitoring Programme – Sampling Strategies and Dose Assessment @ Vienna, Austria from 15-19 January 2018

Participants: RMI EPA- Damiee Riklon, Kristina Reimers; MIMRA- Lyla Lemari, Candice Guavis

The meeting was organized jointly by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in close collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

The purpose of this meeting was to discuss the procedures for establishing baselines on exposure to the public to various sources of radiation and for assessing radiation doses. It covered topics such as Exposure Pathways: cosmic radiation, gamma radiation from radionuclides present in air, soil, food and drinking water; Natural and man-made radionuclides; Sampling strategies and dose assessment methodologies; and International standards.

Aside from lectures and group discussions, participants were allowed ten minutes to give a country presentation. Ms Kristina Reimers gave a brief description on RMI’s behalf and expressed how the Marshall Islands do not have national standards on Sampling and Dose assessment yet. But with current national projects supported by the IAEA, “Developing a National Radioactivity Monitoring Capacity” and “Improving Services in Radiology” in addition to 2018’s project on “Strengthening the National Infrastructure for Radiation Safety”, the RMI will then have such standards in the future.

The following topics discussed during discussions and lectures left burning questions in our minds- how “safe” are we in terms of the following:

  • Exposure in workplaces (i.e. radiology lab)

  • Exposure of our national airline’s crew to cosmic radiation

  • Exposure in food (terrestrial and marine)

  • Terrestrial [i.e. vegetables/grains, meat, milk]

  • Marine [i.e. fish, shellfish, marine food]

  • Exposures to radionuclides in drinking and ground water

  • Level of radionuclides in commodities (building materials, timber etc). Marshallese tend to use pieces of lumber for firewood.

  • Some countries stated they have banned imported used car parts/automobiles from Japan as they contain high levels of Cesium-137. How much of these materials are coming to Majuro, is there an enabled body to perform safety tests on imported commodities arriving in our ports?

As we continue to progress our national efforts in studying and understanding nuclear science, we will then be able to answer some of these concerning questions and, in the future, be able to give advice pertaining to the safety and well being of the Marshall Islands’ citizens especially its fragile environment.

Lyla Lemari collects window-screen samples of algea

Jessie Capelle collects sediments from different benthic habitats.

Workshop participants-identify different planktons in a lecture series.

Lyla Lemari and Jessie Capelle isolate algae from collected sample seawater.

"The dispersion of radioactive contamination from Fukushima through the air and by ocean currents highlighted the need to develop a radiological assessment capacity in the Marshall Islands."


IAEA Projects

In early 2015, MIMRA joined in as one of the key stakeholders for a few of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) national and regional projects. “The IAEA works for the safe, secure and peaceful uses of nuclear science and technology”.  The aim of these projects is to build capacity within local human resource through analytical capabilities, marine and environmental sampling and laboratory work just to name a few. Projects include:

  • RAS 0706 Harmful Algal Bloom Studies in the Asia-Pacific
  • MHL 7001 Developing a National Radioactivity Monitoring Capacity

Brief Background on Projects

  1. RAS 0706 Harmful Algal Bloom Studies in the Asia-Pacific (2014-2017)Member States (IAEA-MS) of the Asia-Pacific region including Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are under threat, round the year, from seafood toxicity caused by marine algae. Marine food is not only a major source of protein for the human beings but also plays an important role in economic growth of the region, and hence this toxicity endangers the public health as well as causes socioeconomic problems. Due to increases in human land-based activities leading to eutrophication, natural events such as typhoons or hurricanes that cause reef destruction, and significant changes in global climate, an increase in frequency and intensity in blooms of harmful algae (HAB) has been recorded in the last decades. In several MS of Asia and the Pacific Region, the potentially deadly paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) syndrome is a prevailing public health issue despite implementation of monitoring programmes. With rapid development of tourism and international trade of seafood, this disease has become a potential threat on a global scale. Seafood safety requirements have therefore been proposed for imported fish (e.g., U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidance level of 0.01 ng/g CTX in fish), which have the potential to impact economies of MS with an export fisheries market. Considering the facts, the IAEA Board of Governors approved a regional project RAS7026, “Supporting the Use of Receptor Binding Assay to Reduce the Adverse Impacts of Harmful Algal Toxins on Seafood Safety” for the period 2014-2017 to strengthen HAB monitoring capabilities in Asia and the Pacific region through use of the radiological and RBA technique for CFP. This project is additionally supported by extra budgetary funding from the Peaceful Use Initiative of the USA. The project is participated by Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Marshall Islands, New Zealand, Palau, Republic of Korea, Thailand and Philippines (as the DTM) in close collaboration with the US-NOAA, ILM and IOC-UNESCO.
  2. MHL 7001 Developing a National Radioactivity Monitoring Capacity (EPA/MIMRA) :This project proposal aims to develop a national capacity to measure artificial radionuclides in the marine, terrestrial and coastal environment of the Marshall Islands. The Fukushima accident released more than 1015 Bq of radiocesium (137Cs and 134Cs) to the Pacific marine environment. This point-source release to the N-W Pacific Ocean represented about 10% of the total inventory of radiocesium dispersed around the globe from the Chernobyl accident. The dispersion of radioactive contaminants from Fukushima through the air and by ocean currents highlighted the need to develop a radiological assessment capacity in the Marshall Islands. The ability to develop baseline data on artificial radionuclides entering terrestrial waters of the Marshall Islands will help attest to any direct impacts associated with the Fukushima accident. The same could be said of any future accidents or events involving the release of radioactive contaminates to the Pacific Ocean. The Marshall Islands is also cognizant of the fact that nuclear energy production in the Asia-Pacific region is expanding, and as a nation we need to have some capacity to respond to nuclear events. Furthermore, the U.S. atmospheric nuclear weapons testing program at Bikini and Enewetak Atolls in the northern Marshall Islands (1946-58) had a profound impact on the natural landscape and people of the Marshall Islands. The nuclear test program left behind a legacy of distrust of U.S. authorities and a chronicle of unanswered questions. Select local atoll governments in partnership with U.S. Government agencies have implemented a number of strategic initiatives over the past decade to improve radiological surveillance measures. However, the fact remains that the RMI Government has no independent capacity to provide verification monitoring of marine and terrestrial foods, air, water and soil. The successful implementation of this project will lead to improved public awareness of radiological conditions in the Marshall Islands, and strategies and actions to development meaningful programs to assess and improve food safety and security. The ability to conduct national studies in radiological protection and measurement will act to build a more equitable and trustworthy relationship with U.S. agencies. As a nation, the Marshall Islands need to be able to make more informed decisions on issues related to radiation exposure, remediation and resettlement of islands and atolls, and general radiological safety and health.

Project implementation will commence in 2016-2017


  • Expert Missions to assess EPA Lab
  • Fellowships to International Laboratories
  • Scientific Visits to IAEA Monaco Lab
  • Training Course on Sampling
  • Procurement of Lab Equipment

IAEA Technical Corporation Project

MHL 7001 Developing a National Radioactivity Monitoring Capacity

Activity 1: Fellowship Program

A three-week fellowship was conducted to acquire skills on the introductory of radiological assessment through laboratory and web-based training at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, California. The laboratory training included initial preparation of vegetation and fish samples from Utirik, Rongelap, Bikini and Enewetak atolls. Sample preparation included sample dissection, weighing and ashing of samples. Other preparatory methods also include Freeze Drying operations; Sample homogenization of vegetation; Canning of sample materials for gamma spectrometry; Observing how to analyse water, juice and other fluids for measuring of cesium isotopes; and most importantly practicing Laboratory Safety.

Computer based training was a crucial part of this fellowship and it was mandatory to pass each course in order to advance to the next level. The passing of the following courses resulted in achieving a Radiological Technician 1 certification. These included:

  • Radiological Worker Training
  • General Employee Training
  • Chemical and Laboratory Safety
  • Lead Awareness
  • Health Hazards Communication for Supervisors
  • Personal Protective Equipment
  • Contamination Control
  • Waste Management Overview
  • Beryllium Awareness

The sample preparation part of the training went smoothly as this activity is part of our job duties. As for the lab and computer courses, it was very fruitful to acquire new skills and learn the radiation terminologies. The health and safety aspect of this training gave us a glimpse of what is needed and vital within our work environment.

Apart from gaining knowledge, skills acquired include: operating lab equipment such as freeze dryer and a canning machine. A significant issue that brought to our attention is that all lab equipment and materials must be calibrated preceding any lab work to assure that lab equipment give accurate readings. Occupational health and safety is highly important in our work space.

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