Radiation testing in support of Operation Unifier

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ADM(IE)’s Directorate of Nuclear Safety (D N Safe) is responsible for the management of the DND/CAF ionizing radiation safety program, providing radiological/nuclear expertise in support of DND/CAF operations.

In November 2015, the Directorate of Force Health Protection (DFHP) conducted a health and hazard assessment for Operation UNIFIER, Joint Task Force Ukraine. As part of this assessment, Canadian Joint Operations Command tasked D N Safe to: determine the radiological risk present within the area of operations; ensure that any exposure of deployed personnel to ionizing radiation remain below the limits stated in departmental radiation safety policy; and determine if radiation specific health protection measures are required for current and future rotations. Although evaluating radiological risk is a standard part of the overall hazard assessment for all deployed operations, there was a particular concern in the case of Op UNIFIER due to radioactive fallout from the 1986 Chernobyl reactor accident and local unsubstantiated reports of nuclear weapons testing dating back to the cold war era.

D N Safe maintains a technical assessment team capable of deploying domestically and internationally to provide radiological and nuclear analysis, advice, training and support to DND/CAF operations and other government partners. Two members of the assessment team, were deployed to Ukraine with highly sensitive detection equipment to assess radiation levels within the areas of CAF operations. The team conducted mobile radiation surveys of the main camp in Starychi, including surrounding training areas and ranges, as well as the explosive ordinance disposal training site in Kamy’anets-Podil’skyi. They also conducted detailed radiation surveys of buildings and living spaces and collected soil samples from various sites for subsequent radiochemical analysis at RMC.

The team’s radiological health and safety assessment indicated that radiation levels present in the Op UNIFIER area of operations were similar to the normal natural background levels found throughout Canada and no specific health protection measures were required.

“Radiological risk assessments of this type, in conjunction with DND/CAF nuclear and ionizing radiation safety policies, are essential to protect deployed forces from harm associated with exposure to ionizing radiation,” said Captain Travis Cunning, Nuclear Safety Officer.

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