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Radiation Safety in Urban Areas


Mathematical Modeling of Radionuclide Carrying Disperse Particle Cloud Formation and Local Propagation in Urban Areas Radiation Safety Problems

Tech Area / Field

  • ENV-MRA/Modelling and Risk Assessment/Environment

3 Approved without Funding

Registration date

Leading Institute
Institute of Mathematical Modelling, Russia, Moscow

Supporting institutes

  • Moscow State University / Department of Mechanics and Mathematics, Russia, Moscow


  • Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium, Brussels\nUniversity of Central Lancashire, UK, Preston\nENEA, Italy, Bologna

Project summary

The project’s topicality can be accounted for by the increasing aggressiveness of terrorist organizations, which makes terrorist attacks using the so called “dirty” bombs in large and medium sized cities with large housing density more likely. And yet, even the world’s largest cities do not have up-to-date integrated systems that are adequate to the emerging threats and can monitor radiation and forecast the spread of radioactivity in the event of local radioactive releases.

The project goal is to develop new mathematical models and corresponding model-based software for real time numerical simulation of the processes of radionuclide carrying disperse particle cloud formation and local propagation in urban area conditions.

The world’s major cities like Moscow and New York are equipped with on-line radioactivity monitoring systems. Typically such systems consist of several stationary radiation monitoring stations providing for monitoring equivalent dose rates, surface air radioactive aerosol concentrations, “dry” and “wet” radioactive fallout as well as the meteorological parameters. In addition to the stationary radiation monitoring stations such systems may include several dozen equivalent dose rate sensors distributed all over the city area and supplying the central station with on-line information. Such systems can be applied successfully to monitor the radiation situation in a city as they are capable of detecting even very small radioactive releases. However, such systems do not have the whole spectrum of capabilities required for solving problems related to threats by terrorists to release radioactive substances into the atmosphere in a city since the systems are designed to act as on-line inspection systems which do not have the capabilities required for making real time forecasts of the spread of radioactive pollution. And the ability to make real time predictions about the developing situation is an indispensable element of a system to support decision making when dealing with emergency situations and looking for ways to minimize damage.

To be able to forecast the spread of local radioactive aerosol releases within the city boundaries it is necessary to develop new mathematical models and special software allowing for real time numerical simulation of the radioactive aerosol cloud forming and spreading processes. Developing such software with its incorporation into the existing monitoring systems in mind is an essential step along the path to making integrated systems for monitoring and forecasting radiation situation in urban areas. These integrated systems will be capable of solving problems related to ensuring urban population safety both in normal conditions and in case of possible industrial accidents or terrorist attacks involving the release of radioactive aerosol substances into the atmosphere. Is with this end in mind that most of the work on the Project will be carried out.

In addition, the project will deal with problems of modeling wind erosion of radioactively contaminated soil layers with radioactive dust cloud formation and spread in the surface air. The simulated results will be compared with those of full-scale experiments made at biological stations and in nature reserve areas belonging to Moscow State University. Being able to solve such problems is also important for controlling the population safety and protection from the effects of serious accidents with radioactive contamination of soil over large areas.

To achieve the project goals we need to complete the following tasks:

  1. Develop a mathematical model and a computer code for numerical simulation of the processes of dispersing radioactive substances and forming radioactive aerosol clouds.
  2. Develop a mathematical model and a computer code for numerical simulation of the process of local propagation of radionuclide carrying disperse particle clouds in urban areas based on continuum mechanics equations.
  3. Mathematical modeling of spatially non-uniform transport of radionuclide carrying disperse particle clouds based on the Monte Carlo method and the Boltzmann-Smoluchowski-Vlasov kinetic equation including the condensation, coagulation and precipitation processes.
  4. Develop methods and algorithms to solve the inverse problem of detecting the pollution source based on the radioactivity monitoring data in the city.
  5. Mathematical modeling of wind erosion of radioactively polluted soil layers, the lifting and transport of radioactive dust in the subsurface layer of the atmosphere.

The main results of the project implementation will be
  • New mathematical models of the processes of radioactive aerosol cloud forming and propagation in urban areas with due account of weather conditions.
  • Computer codes for numerical simulation of the processes of radioactive aerosol clouds’ forming and propagation.
  • Mathematical models of radioactively contaminated soil eolation and of the processes of raising radioactive dust and its transport in the atmosphere.
  • Computer codes for numerical simulation of the processes of radioactively contaminated soil eolation and of the processes of raising radioactive dust and its transport in the atmosphere.

The results obtained during project implementation will help
  • to forecast with a high degree of certainty the spread of radioactive aerosol clouds in urban areas in the event of local radioactive releases as a result of industrial accidents or acts of terrorism;
  • to enhance safety and reduce the risk of industrial accidents and terrorist attacks involving radioactive aerosol dispersion;
  • to study the processes of radioactively contaminated soil eolation more thoroughly, to predict the spread of radioactive dust clouds, which will also help to protect people in the adjacent territories and neighboring towns.

Thus, this project could be regarded as one of the measures to ensure protection of the population from the threats of nuclear terrorism and from nuclear industrial accidents, which is one of today’s most important tasks.

Participants’ level of expertise

The work on the Project will be carried out by two Russian research institutes that are leaders in their respective fields of science and technology and have wide experience in solving problems of this type.

IMM RAS is one of Russia’s leading centers in the field of mathematical modeling of a wide range of complex physicochemical processes and technical systems whose work has won international recognition. IMM RAS has participated in a number of ISTC projects. One of the institute’s lines of activity is mathematical modeling for the problems of dispersion of hazardous chemicals in the atmosphere. The institute’s scientists and experts have many years of experience in modeling the processes to be dealt with in our proposed project.

Moscow M.V.Lomonosov State University (MSU), another institution participating in the project, is one of the leaders in the field of mathematical modeling of complex dynamic processes and multiphase flows. The multiple-discipline character of Moscow University’s experts will allow the newly developed mathematical models to be complemented with experimental studies and measurements of the surface soil layer dynamics and transport of heat, moisture and aerosols in the atmosphere. The team of researchers from MSU participating in this project has taken part in the completion of two ISTC projects, two INTAS projects and CRDF projects.

The participants of the Project have published more than 80 scientific papers over the past 10 years, their results were reported at important international conferences. Among project participants are world famous experts in the field of mathematical modeling, gas dynamics and mechanics of reacting media: 8 Professors from the Russian Academy of Sciences and Moscow M.V.Lomonosov State University.

“Weaponry” scientists’ fraction in the project will be about 55 percent of the total number.

The project meets ISTC goals and tasks:

  • the project will provide opportunities for weaponry scientists and engineers to redirect their activity and use their potential focusing on studies for peaceful purposes;
  • the project will facilitate the integration of the project participants into the international scientific community. It is planned that Russian scientists will participate in international conferences and seminars and publish their scientific papers abroad;
  • the project will provide support to fundamental and applied research in the area of physics and mathematical modeling of the processes under investigation;
  • the project will help to solve both national and international problems with regard to the protection of population and environment against industrial accidents and terrorist attacks.

Role of Foreign Collaborators.
  • Exchange of information in the course of work on the Project.
  • Reviewing technical reports.
  • Participation in technically auditing the Project.
  • Conducting joint studies aimed at carrying out particular project tasks and publishing joint papers.
  • Participation in joint scientific seminars.