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Nuclear Safety Cooperation

R4.01/04 - Monitoring system for the Ob/Irtysh river basin (ref AP

  • Closed
Benefitting Zone
Eastern Europe / North Asia
€ 1,661,590.02
EU Contribution
Contracted in 2006
Technical Assistance to the Commonwealth of Independent States


Type of activity

Waste Management



Contracting authority

European Commission

Method of Procurement

(FR2007) Restricted Call for Tender - External Actions


28/02/2006 - 31/08/2009



Project / Budget year

TACIS 2004 - Nuclear Safety Action Programme / 2004


The Irtysh River with a length of 4,248 km and the lower segment of the River Ob with a length of 1,162 km are forming one of the largest river areas of the world. This river system and its catchment areas cover a total area of 1,643,000 km2. The Ob’/Irtysh River-basin is contaminated with radioactivity and chemical-toxic pollution from several potential sources.

The main radiological pollution potential has been identified in several nuclear facilities and nuclear underground explosion sites in Russia and 3 nuclear explosion sites in Kazakhstan. The tremendous contamination from nuclear explosions at Semipalatinsk test site and the discharge of radioactive waste water into the river system by the facilities of Mayak and Tomsk 7 caused a long-term contamination of sediments at the riverbanks and floodplains.

Chemical-toxic pollution is caused by industrial facilities mainly in the Sverdlovsk, Chelyabinsk and Kurgan region and the oil & gas production centres in the northern part of the project region. Other industrial sites and mining industries were evaluated as potential pollution risk too.
Investigations have shown that the radionuclide composition of these contaminations is always quite different than the one of the source term, so that processes of sorption, de-sorption, sedimentation, and accumulation were considered for evaluating a realistic risk estimation. In the case of chemical-toxic pollution, biological self-cleaning process (biodegradation) of organic pollutants had to be taken into account.

The project consisted in the development and the installation of an early warning system dedicated to the monitoring of radiological and chemical-toxic constituents in a river basin that covers the whole west Siberian lowland.

The specific targets of this project were:

  • to collect, to assess and to systematise the information on contamination sources and on already existing radio-ecological, hydrometeorological and geophysical data about the Ob’/Irtysh River system and its catchments area
  • to collect and analyze data coming from the existing monitoring and warning systems and to assess the existing laboratories structures;
  • to develop the mathematical model, study basic scenarios and preliminary define the monitoring points for the monitoring and warning system; perform a feasibility study and design the system architecture;
  • to identify the necessary equipment and software; prepare the related technical specifications and tender dossiers; develop the optimal strategy and a detailed action plan in order to implement the complex Ob’/Irtysh monitoring and warning system

The project was subdivided in the following tasks:

  1. Preparation of the kick-off meeting and the Inception Report
  2. Collection, assessment and systematisation of the information on contamination sources and already existing radio-ecological data of the Ob’/Irtysh River system and its catchments area
  3. Collection, review and systematisation of the already existing hydrometeorological and geophysical data
  4. Collection of information and analysis of the existing monitoring and warning systems. Analysis of the existing regional laboratory structures
  5. Development of mathematical models, study of basic scenarios and preliminary definition of the monitoring points for the future monitoring and warning system.
    Creation and validation of transport models for the monitoring and warning system
    Study of basic scenarios and preliminary definition of monitoring points, quantities to be measured and frequency of the measurements
  6. Feasibility study
  7. Design of the system architecture
  8. Identification of the necessary equipment and software and preparation of the related technical specifications and tender dossier.
  9. Development of optimal strategy and a detailed action plan in order to implement the new Ob’/Irtysh monitoring and warning system
  10. Technical Final Report

The work was programmed in 2 phases.

Phase 1 (February 2006 – February 2008) consisted on the following activities:

  • Identification of potential radioactive contamination sources
  • Identification of release and transport scenarios
  • Transport model development and validation
  • Identification of proposed monitoring points
  • Identification of equipment needs
  • Development of systems architecture (sounds strange to have this task sooner)
  • Development of implementation plan -

Phase 2 (March 2008 – august 2009) consisted on the following activities:

• Investigation of chemical-toxic contamination

  • Identification of potential contamination sources
  • Identification of scenarios & transport model development
  • Systems architecture & identification of monitoring points
  • Identification of equipment needs & implementation plan

• Know how transfer, support and training


The overall objective of the project was the creation of a monitoring and warning system capable of analysing and predicting the spread of pollution in the Ob’/Irtysh system including its relevant tributaries. The system had to be integrated in the existing monitoring efforts and lead to a unified and systematic approach.

European Union and States in Northern Europe, the Russian Federation and the regions of Chelabinsk, Kurgansk, Sverdlovsk, Oms, Tyumen’, yamal Nenzen, Tomsk and Khanty-Mansiysk are the users and interested parties of this project.

The specific objectives are:

  • The detailed design of a monitoring and warning system analysing and predicting the radionuclide spreading by:
    • radioactivity measurements;
    • hydrological observations;
    • meteorological observations;
    • geophysical observations;
    • space observations.
  • The preparation of Technical Specifications of necessary equipment and software for the system
  • strategy and action plan for future implementation.

In addition, the Consultant experts will ensure the transfer of sufficient and adequate international experience and practice to the local specialists.


23 sites were potentially identified to install monitoring stations. But due to insufficient budget, the number of stations to be installed was initially reduced to 9 and later to 3. Automatic stations deliver the results of hydrological and radiological measurements to interregional boards for hydrometeorology and environmental monitoring (UGMS), which are connected to the central database. The data transfer will be done by GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) to regional centres of Roshydromet, and through a web-based data exchange with RPA Typhoon in Obninsk. The central database is the core of the system, and allows for the supply of the necessary data to a modelling tool which predicts water pollution. RPA Typhoon is responsible for the distribution of quality data to all users of the information and to the warning system (in case of emergency).

The design of an automated monitoring station consist of a waterpipe system through which water from the river is pumped for the automatic determination of standard parameters like temperature pH, redox potential, oxygen content, turbidity and electrical conductivity, beta / gamma and H-3 measurement as well as the chemical sum parameters BOD, COD, TOC and DOC. The necessary technical infrastructure consists of power and water supply, air conditioning, housing security and fire protection A demonstration monitoring station was settled in extreme weather conditions in Siberia (Khanty-Mansiysk), to prove the feasibility of the concept. Despite of high water level differences up to six metres and a big ice sheet on the river during winter time, and with temperatures below -35 C the station transmitted reliable data to the main database.

Conclusions and lessons learned

There was a great interest in the 8 involved regions in Russia regions to get an automatic monitoring and early warning system for monitoring the river water concerning radioactive and chemical-toxic pollution. And there is the same interest on behalf of RHM in Moscow to find a solution of technical implementation. For such a monitoring system, both radioactivity and chemical-toxic pollution had to be monitored. For the realization of such a monitoring network it is required to use very qualified and very stable working technologies as much as lot of experience to get the highest standard in monitoring.
Taking into account the hard natural conditions in Siberia, it was necessary to apply the highest standard for on-site measuring devices. High qualified and efficient validation methods were also developed in order to assess the system by cross check measurements in laboratory scale (centralized laboratories with a very good radiological and bio-/chemical standard for samples).
It is important that existing information structures guarantee immediate notification in case of an emergency.
In the framework of the present project the ecological situation in the Ob/Irtysh river area was considered regarding the pollution by chemical-toxic substances as well as radiological contamination. The successful implementation of the project was only possible with the support of regional administrations, the organisations and departments of RHM, local and governmental stakeholders, experts of the beneficiaries, scientific institutes and the university in Khanty-Mansiysk.
Based on the substantial results achieved during the project, the consortium WISUTEC-Stoller-WISMUT and their partners provided recommendations and suggestions for the technical implementation of an automated network of water monitoring and warning in emergency cases with the highest technical standards and based on long term experiences which were gathered in German water monitoring systems.
The results can be applied in the future development of the Russian EGASKRO system for radiological and environmental monitoring and in other areas worldwide.