Index > 4 Environmental remediation of radioactively contaminated sites >

4.2.2 Major factors in environmental remediation

A significant element for the success of any remediation strategy is to decouple/cut-off the source term from the groundwater pathway. In some contamination scenarios, the source may have only occurred over a short time period, such as a onetime leak. However, other scenarios may involve continued contaminant source contribution, such as the seepage from an uranium mill tailings or mine debris pile. In scenarios with continued source term contribution to the groundwater pathway, one of the first remedial actions is to remove or decouple the contaminant source. The clean-up of a site will be extended indefinitely if the source to the groundwater is not fully stopped [IAEA-1999a].

In the context of intervention situations, the term ‘remediation’ has a meaning that is similar to rehabilitation, reclamation and clean-up. It does not include decommissioning, as decommissioning refers to the full range of activities leading to the termination of an authorized activity [IAEA-2007a].

Major factors to be taken into account in an environmental remediation plan may be:

  • Future land use;
  • Public acceptability and perception and response to the problem;
  • Regulatory aspects;
  • Technical and institutional considerations;
  • Available environmental remediation techniques and resources;
  • Issues and conditions influencing the decision making process [IAEA-1999a]:
    • Potential human health and ecological impacts;
    • Likely permanence of adverse effects of contamination;
    • Potential for spread of contamination;
    • Established radiological and other criteria;
    • Potential for trans-boundary effects;
    • Radioactive waste management and waste transportation;
    • Post-remediation state;
  • Financial capability.