The IAEA Safety Glossary defines remediation as “any measures that may be carried out to reduce the radiation exposure from existing contamination of land areas through actions applied to the contamination itself (the source) or to the exposure pathways to humans.” Radioactive contamination of facilities and the environment can arise, for example, from poor management of facilities and wastes, or nuclear and radiological accidents. Environmental remediation deals with reduction of public exposure to radiation and mitigation of the radiological environmental impact caused by the contamination of environmental media, such as agricultural lands and products, urban environments, forests, and freshwater or marine environments. Removal and immobilization of radionuclides and modification of pathways of exposure are some of the means to achieve reduction of exposure.
The objective of IAEA Programme on remediation is to assist Member States in their efforts to ensure that exposure is reduced to safe levels in areas contaminated by residual radioactive materials. This is achieved through the development and application of international safety standards, and the dissemination of good practice. The cornerstone for the IAEA’s publication on remediation is Radiation Protection and Safety of Radiation Sources: International Basic Safety Standards (the BSS). The safety requirements in the BSS are elaborated upon in IAEA safety guides and supporting publications such as TecDocs and Safety Reports Series publications.
Assistance to Member States is delivered by means of training courses and workshops, international peer reviews, international safety demonstration projects, expert missions and projects focused on a specific national or regional problem. These programmes engage staff of regulatory authorities, site owners and operators, remediation specialists and the public.
In recent years, the assistance Programme of the IAEA has been targeted towards the development of national strategies for remediation, building technical competencies, and strengthening regulatory capacity for remediation. The IAEA has also been extensively involved in national environmental assessments concerning, for example, radiological contamination of riverine basins and post-conflict situations involving depleted uranium contamination.
Examples of the types of activities carried out under IAEA remediation programmes are:
- Providing technical expertise in site characterization, surveillance and monitoring of contaminated sites
- Assessment of risks for sites that need to be remediated, for example, using radiological environmental impact assessments
- Peer review services
- Development of national strategies and prioritization of sites for remediation
- Development of remediation plans
- Strengthening the regulatory supervision of legacy sites
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