Montebello Islands: Existing exposure site monitoring strategy and decision support
Presented by: Megan Cook, ARPANSA
Dr Megan Cook is a radiochemist in the Monitoring and Emergency Response section, Radiation Health Services Branch of ARPANSA since August 2017. Dr Cook completed a PhD in environmental radiochemistry in 2020 and her research focussed on the transport and migration of Pu in the Australian environment.
Dr Cook worked for Radiation and Nuclear Sciences, Queensland Health from 2007 to 2017 in the radiochemistry laboratory. This work included the analysis of environmental samples for naturally-occurring and anthropogenic radioisotopes, applied radiochemical research, and management of the radioanalytical laboratory. Since moving to ARPANSA in 2017, Dr Cook initially worked in the development of strategies, procedures and activities to support Australia’s radiation emergency preparedness and response, she has since led several projects delivering routine environmental monitoring programmes around Australia and has supported international engagement activities for the Asia/Pacific region as part of the IAEA ALMERA and Technical Cooperation Programme.
Dr Cook has contributed to IAEA safety standards in the area of monitoring for protection of the public and the environment and is an ICRP Task Group 105 member developing guidance on ‘Considering the Environment when Applying the System of Radiological Protection’. She is also an active member of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute (RACI) and the South Pacific Environmental Radioactivity Association (SPERA)
The Montebello Islands, located off the Pilbara coast of north Western Australia, were the site of three British nuclear weapons tests; one conducted in 1952, and two in 1956. The testing of nuclear weapons resulted in wide-spread contamination of the Montebello Islands with radioactive material. The Commonwealth Government completed a comprehensive radiological dose assessment of the Montebello Islands in 1990 and based on how land was used at that time provided recommendations for radiation protection approaches.
Today the Montebello Islands has a very different use profile. Significant changes to the volume of visitors, and the way workers and researchers use the Montebello Islands since the 1990 radiological dose assessment and the change in contamination conditions prompts a review of existing radiation protection approaches and the evidence underpinning these protection actions.
A key requirement of a robust risk characterisation is high quality monitoring data. This presentation demonstrates Visual Sample Plan, a tool that supports the development of a defensible sampling plan based on statistical sampling theory and the statistical analysis of sample results to support confident decision making. For the Montebello Islands this supports the preparation of a comprehensive, defensible sampling plan to underpin the investigation of changes to protective actions and manage decision-making uncertainty across the archipelago; including the selection of reference sampling points for inclusion in a long-term monitoring plan as defined in national framework for management of existing exposure situations.
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