Problems to be solved
Following large-scale releases of radioactivity, urban, industrial and rural environments may remain contaminated for many years. To mitigate the impact of contamination, such areas need to be managed, and, where feasible, restored to sustain acceptable living and working conditions. Over the 15 years following the Chernobyl accident, many countermeasures have been successfully developed and implemented within the former Soviet Union, but their applicability to the European Community Member States has not been fully and critically assessed.
shows one such urban countermeasure, the removal of the soil surface using a 'bobcat'.
Research has largely focused on the technical effectiveness and costs of individual countermeasures. There has been little consideration of the practicality and feasibility of such measures in Western Europe or how to combine them within urban, rural and industrial systems.
Emergency planning for nuclear accidents conducted throughout Europe generally focus on the short-term response (few days - weeks) and address issues such as evacuation, immediate problems associated with 131I, and requi-rements for restrictions on drinking water/food. The consideration of long-term management has not received much attention. However, it is essential that long-term management be considered during the early phases of accident management, as actions conducted during this phase will impact upon the potential for, and mechanisms of, long-term restoration.
Existing scientific knowledge on the effectiveness of countermeasures and the behaviour of radionuclides in different systems will form the basis for an assessment and subsequent selection of restoration strategies. The practicability of the different potential techniques throughout Europe will be determined. Once the countermeasures have been evaluated, a decision making tool will be developed. The four different aspects of the evaluation are:
Practicability and cost
- Environmental, technical and radiological criteria, which determine the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of individual countermeasures for application in different environments, will be quantified. Wastes arising from countermeasure techniques will be quantified to determine their practicable management. Practicability and acceptability of countermeasures will be evaluated with regulatory bodies and stakeholders (e.g. manufacturing industry, food processing and agricultural industries).
Social and ethical issues
- The social and ethical aspects of individual countermeasures and combined restoration strategies will be evaluated and decision tools produced to aid the selection of countermeasures. The aim is to produce a system to ensure that decision makers address relevant ethical and social considerations when making decisions.
Communication with the public and stakeholder groups
- Information which needs to be effectively communicated in the event of a large nuclear accident, will be identified and effective communication methods determined. Key exposure pathways, for which 'good practice' public communication protocols could be formulated, will be identified and appropriate protocols constructed.
Indirect/direct costs and benefits
- Methods of quantifying indirect costs and benefits associated with restoration strategies will be identified and a framework for extended cost benefit analyses produced. For example, the indirect costs of the recent foot and mouth outbreak in the UK are much greater (e.g. to the tourism industry) than to the agricultural industry itself.
Decision making package
The proposed structure of the decision framework is shown in
. It will provide a framework whereby decision makers can systematically combine individual countermeasure technologies to create a practical and effective long-term restoration management strategy for a contaminated area. This will be supported by guidance on best practice with respect to public communication processes, refined to take account of variable scenarios. To achieve this, approaches will be constructed to enable a potential strategy to be identified on the basis of the restoration objectives (e.g. reduce activity concentration in foodstuffs to below intervention levels or reduce collective dose to <1 man-Sv) and constraints (e.g. cost or preservation of a sensitive environment).
The main achievement so far is the development of criteria for a 'countermeasure template' containing detailed information on each countermeasure used in agricultural, semi-natural and aquatic systems. Criteria considered include: effectiveness, feasibility, legal constraints, averted dose and ethical and social implications etc.