Index > 5 Stewardship >

5.2.2 Institutional/Administrative controls

Contents Introduction Governmental controls Proprietary controls Physical/engineered controls Introduction

Institutional controls or provisions may be provisions designed to control future uses of land or resources by limiting development and/or restricting public access to a site which has residual contamination. The IAEA defines institutional control as ‘control of a waste site by an authority or institution designated under the laws of a country’.

These controls and provisions can be active and passive. They may include property controls such as easements and covenants; governmental controls such as zoning, permits, restrictions on land and water use, and excavation permit requirements; informational devices like deed notifications and restrictions and title transfers; and legal enforcement tools such as administrative orders and consent decrees. These controls are administrative in nature and are often implemented or enforced by off-site land use authorities.

Institutional controls also limit activities and/or access to land, groundwater, surface water, and waste disposal areas to prevent or reduce exposure to hazardous substances. These kinds of controls may be used in conjunction with other stewardship measures such as engineered controls to provide an extra layer of protection. In general, institutional controls are not intended to reduce the quantity, toxicity, or mobility of hazardous substances in the environment. They may provide for temporary or permanent restrictions.

It is recommended that institutional control activities defined for a remediated site, where restrictions are maintained after remediation has been completed, should be included in a monitoring and surveillance plan. This plan should be subject to periodical review and to approval by the competent authority.

The extent of such a monitoring and surveillance plan should be based on the residual risks and their degrees of uncertainty and on the need to verify the long term stability of the radiological conditions. Referring to foregoing considerations, monitoring and surveillance programmes may include, as necessary, environmental monitoring (of dose rates, activity concentrations in soil, water and air, biological indicator species and foodstuffs), whole body monitoring (if applicable) and dose assessment.

Decisions regarding the routine maintenance of such monitoring and surveillance programmes should be documented in the remediation plan. The results of the monitoring and surveillance programmes should be documented and made readily available to interested parties to assist in maintaining public confidence. An invitation to interested parties to participate in the decision making is recommended also in the post-remediation phase. Governmental controls

Governmental controls are generally applied through the traditional powers invested in the police by the government and enforced on its citizens. Governmental controls are essentially regulatory in nature. Examples of these would be zoning, permits and ordinances, for example, groundwater use permits:

  • Special zoning, for instance, may be established to prevent contaminated groundwater from being extracted.
  • Enforcing certain types of land use can provide a degree of control if the user of the land is likely to be an entity that will continue in existence. In addition, if the land use is very site specific (e.g., a golf course or a horse race course) then changes to land use are unlikely to be brought about without being brought to the attention of the steward.
  • To maintain this restriction, an inspector would check the site and determine, for example, whether water is being extracted. A review of developments around the site to consider pressures that will probably affect changes in usage over time may be useful.

Amongst the major issues facing regulators is how institutional control can be maintained over times exceeding a few decades, i.e., the question of how the ‘rules’ can be enforced. Acceptability of, and compliance with, institutional controls is a socio-cultural question.

Strategies aimed at ensuring institutional control face two challenges: unintentional and intentional breaches of institutional control. There seems to be general agreement that little can be done about intentional breaches. Experience in many countries shows that warning signs are ignored, fences are ripped down, sites are misused and impounded material is taken away without authorization. However, education of stakeholders and building a relationship (Section 5.2.9) might work towards reducing such incidences.

Regulators have to be aware, however, that from a stakeholder perspective the cost-benefit balance may be tipped in favour of a breach; there may be, for instance, pressing economic reasons to reuse fencing and other materials or to occupy restricted sites. It may be expedient to address the underlying reasons for such possible breaches rather than the breaches themselves.

Stakeholders may advocate the complete removal of contamination in order to achieve free release of a site or to have a problem removed from their ‘backyard’. However, it is important to remember that a disposal site for radioactive residues has to be found or newly constructed. In particular, in the latter case, a reasonable balance between the stewardship needs for the site with residual contamination remaining and the stewardship needs for the site receiving the removed contaminants has to be found.

Institutional control is a broader concept than regulatory control (i.e., institutional control may be thought of as a form of regulatory control applied after completion of remediation). In particular, institutional control measures may be passive, they may be imposed for reasons not entirely related to protection or safety, they may be applied by organizations that do not meet the definition of a regulatory body, and they may apply in situations that do not fall within the scope of facilities and activities. As a result, some form of institutional control may be considered more likely to endure further into the future than regulatory control. Proprietary controls

Proprietary controls are often placed on deeds. They involve restricting the use of and through an ownership interest in the property.

Provisions under institutional control may preclude the construction of a building on a specific property. This restriction could be placed on the deed of a property to ensure that future owners will also be restricted from building a house on the property.

To maintain this restriction, the steward has to periodically visually inspect the property and management location (e.g., land register or cadastre) to verify that the restriction is still in force. In addition, the steward (if not the previous proprietor) has to make any new owner aware of such restrictions and if necessary take action to enforce them. Physical/engineered controls

Engineered controls should be designed to treat or stabilise contamination and/or to physically contain or isolate contaminated materials or other residual hazards. The IAEA defines physical/engineered controls as ‘controls intended to limit or prevent access or exposure to contaminations at a site or parts thereof’, for example buried waste.

Common types of engineered controls are an instrument of institutional control aimed at minimizing the need for active control measurements; however, regular surveillance and maintance shall still be required.

Physical/engineered controls may include periodically inspection of the in-situ stabilisation; integrity of caps or covers on residual contamination; and vaults, repositories, or engineered landfills designed to isolate contaminated materials. Contaminated water may be addressed by controls such as groundwater barriers (e.g., slurry walls, pilings), groundwater treatment systems (e.g., pump and treat, permeable reactive barriers), and surface water diversions (e.g., dams, ponds, and ditches).

Physical controls should prevent access to contaminated areas or preclude specific uses. Options may include:

  • Fencing, walls, and other barriers;
  • Locks (on wellheads, buildings, fences);
  • Guards and security patrols; and
  • Signs, markers, or monuments.