Index > 2 Development of a strategy, implementation and execution program to remediate radioactively contaminated sites >

2.1.1 Principle 1: Protection of people and the environment

The fundamental objective of managing a radioactively contaminated site and/or groundwater that is going to be reused should be to achieve a level of protection of people and the environment that is conform to the existing views of health physics and ALARA.

The term “managing a radioactively contaminated site and/or groundwater” includes all actions to control, to characterise and to remediate (wholly or partially) the radioactive contamination, to restore the site, to install if necessarily short term or long term stewardship, as well as the associated decision making processes.

This definition excludes the management of radioactively contaminated sites and/or groundwater that are still in operation conform its original intent and license, e.g., the site of an operational nuclear power plant, the site of a radioactive waste disposal facility, etc..

The intent of Principle 1 includes that it should not be tied to a moment in time, but should be applicable now and in the future, so that new developments, such as in the field of control, characterisation, remediation, etc., can be taken into account. Therefore, the fragment “conform existing views of health physics” is included in this principle.

The International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) stipulates that [ICRP – 1991]:

“Remediation measures shall be justified by means of a decision aiding process requiring a positive balance of all relevant attributes relating to the contamination. In addition to the avertable annual doses, both individual and collective, other relevant attributes shall be assessed.”

Remedial actions at a radioactively contaminated site have direct and lasting effects on the level of contamination and thus on the level of stewardship required at the site.
The International Atomic Energy Agency defines that [IAEA – 2003]:

“Remediation shall a) reduce the doses to individuals or groups of individuals being exposed; b) avert doses to individuals or groups of individuals that are likely to arise in the future; c) prevent and reduce environmental impacts from the radionuclides present in the contaminated area.”

The International Atomic Energy Agency formulated in an IAEA Safety Guide the criteria for the release of sites from regulatory control upon the termination of practices [IAEA – 2006a]. Though strictly speaking this guide applies only to the decommissioning of authorized practices, sites where past practices or accidents have led to contamination in the the ground would have to comply with most of the criteria set out there.

“The restrictions should be designed and implemented to provide reasonable assurance of compliance with the dose constraint for as long as they are necessary… Therefore, existing regulatory limits on the institutional control time frames should be taken into consideration in deciding whether to release a site for restricted use.”

The term ALARA is included to emphasize that economics are an integral part of the management of radioactively contaminated sites and/or groundwater. By explicitly integrating economics in the management of a radioactively contaminated site and/or groundwater, the managing becomes site specific and will depend on the economical strength of the area (country) in which the radioactively contaminated site and/or groundwater is located.