Kuzbass school students in cooperation with FLNP JINR assessing environmental situation in their cities

News, 03 February 2023

High school students from seven cities of the Kemerovo Region are taking part in JINR study on the assessment of atmospheric and soil pollution in Russian regions. Soil samples collected by them near coal mining fields, industrial enterprises, and thermal power plants will be analysed for the content of radionuclides. Mosses as biomonitors placed there will show the presence of heavy metals in the air.

The cooperation of school students with scientists of the Laboratory of Neutron Physics JINR became possible thanks to the project “Lessons of the present” of the Sirius Educational Centre. Inga Zinicovscaia, Head of the Sector of Neutron Activation Analysis and Applied Research of FLNP JINR, took part in the project as a lecturer. She offered the students a joint project that will allow them to get involved in solving the problem of environmental protection and learn more about their region.

Low-background gamma detector of FLNP JINR

Inga Zinicovscaia reported that seven 9-11 grade students collected soil samples in the territory of their cities of residence, namely Kemerovo, Novokuznetsk, Michurinsk, and others. “The sample collection fields were chosen based on the principle of proximity to pollution sources. Since coal is mined in Kuzbass, these fields are located close to the open cut mines, spoil tips, Novokuznetsk Iron and Steel Plant, and other large industrial facilities. In small towns, samples were collected near coal-fired thermal power plants. There were seven selection points in each city,” she said.

Measurements of the content of natural radionuclides and anthropogenic caesium-137 will be carried out by low-background gamma spectrometry. Dried and prepared soil samples are put in Marinelli beakers – small plastic containers, in the centre of which there is a plastic cylinder, where a spectrometer device is placed during the experiment. Due to this shape of the beaker, the detector is in the centre of the volume of the test sample without touching it, which allows achieving high measurement efficiency.

A soil sample in a Marinelli beaker

“The sample is not exposed to additional radiation. The radioactivity that is observed in nature is measured, plus cesium-137, which is formed as a result of radiation accidents,” Inga Zinicovscaia explained. The results of the measurements will be known in April.

Work is now beginning on another stage of the project: active biomonitoring of the air at the same sampling points. The bags of mosses placed there will be sent to JINR in February, and the staff of the NAAAR FLNP sector will determine the content of heavy metals in moss samples by neutron activation analysis.

All the children participating in the project will become co–authors of a scientific article based on the results of the study.