In this document, we describe the environmental issues that an operator should take into account when choosing a site for a new business or when considering the expansion of an existing business. This is to ensure that the operator is aware of the nature of the local environment, where people live and work and other relevant issues such as local food production, and will take these issues into consideration when ‘he will propose such new or modified uses.
These general principles of site assessment have been developed (SEDP) are relevant for the assessment of generic and specific sites proposed for new nuclear installations and other installations where radioactive substances are used.
They are also relevant for the assessment of the continued suitability of sites throughout the construction and operation of nuclear and other facilities. In the case of major new facilities, the site assessment will often be part of a larger site-specific or strategic environmental impact assessment and planning process.
Further guidance on the assessment of proposed sites for new disposal facilities for solid radioactive waste is provided in the guidance on licensing document requirements (GRA) for shallow repository and geological repositories.
SEDP1 – general principle of siting new installations
When assessing the sites of a new installation, account should be taken of factors which may affect the protection of people and the environment against radiological risks and the generation of radioactive waste.
Factors to consider include:
- locations and habits of people, in particular those likely to be the most exposed due to releases of radionuclides into the environment from the installation (potential critical groups)
- places where land, freshwater and marine food is produced and obtained
- locations of surface and underground water supplies used by people and animals and the vulnerability of these water supplies
- potential effects of coastal erosion and sea level rise
- presence of soil or groundwater contaminated by radioactivity
- locations of land and water bodies used for recreation and amenity
- locations of non-human species and protected habitats and habitat features, including designated and candidate European and Ramsar sites
- locations of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Areas of Cultural Heritage Importance
SEDP2 – migration of radioactive materials into the environment
Data should be provided to allow assessment of the rates and patterns of migration of radioactive material into the air and aquatic and terrestrial environments around the sites.
The applicant must provide the necessary data for the sites of the new installations.
The data provided must be sufficient to allow prospective dose assessments to be carried out (see RPDP4 in the document Radiation protection of people and the environment: generic principles developed).
For the dispersion of radionuclides in air, the information provided should include meteorological data for the area in which the site is located (e.g. wind speed and direction, air temperatures, precipitation rates , atmospheric stability parameters) and variations in these data resulting from topography (eg, hills, buildings).
For the marine environment, the information provided should include hydrological, physical and physicochemical data to model the movement of radionuclides in seawater, suspended sediments and seabed sediments.
For surface freshwater bodies, the information should include the hydrological, physical and physicochemical data necessary to model the movement of radionuclides in water, suspended sediments and bed sediments.
For soils and rocks, the information should include the geological, hydrogeological and geochemical data necessary to model the movement of radionuclides in near-surface and deeper groundwater.
For all environments, concentration factors or other transfer parameters should be provided to allow assessment of movement of radionuclides through food chains and concentrations of radionuclides in relevant non-human species.
Information on the presence of non-radioactive pollutants should be provided if these pollutants are likely to affect the movement of radionuclides through food chains and other ecosystems.
SEDP3 – ambient radioactivity
The levels of ambient radioactivity around the sites of new installations must be assessed.
Information on ambient levels of natural and artificial radioactivity should be used to estimate pre-existing doses to people and dose rates to non-human species. These estimates should form part of the input data for the assessment of the radiological impact of the new facility on people and the environment. The pre-existing dose estimates from authorized discharges must be used in determining the regulatory limits and levels for the new installation (see RSMDP12 in the document Management of radioactive substances: generic principles developed).
The information should be used as a baseline for further investigation and monitoring of the effects of the new installation during its operational life.
Levels of radioactivity in all relevant parts of the environment must be determined (air, surface water and their sediments, soils, groundwater, flora and fauna).
Radionuclides of natural and man-made origin should be included and distinguished as far as possible.
SEDP4 – multi-establishment sites
In the case of nuclear and other sites on which one or more installations already exist, the radiological impact of the entire site on people and the environment must be assessed when examining the suitability of the site for brand new installation.
Assessments of future radiological impacts of sites should include current and new operations at existing facilities and, where applicable, their decommissioning.
The potential of existing facilities and shared services to affect the radiological impact of the new facility should be assessed.
If there are or will be different operators at the same site or at adjacent sites, formal mechanisms for cooperation between operators should be established and demonstrated to regulators.
SEDP5 – continuous assessment
The characteristics of the site and its surrounding area should be kept under review and assessments made of the effects of natural and man-made changes.
The modifications concerned are those which could affect the radiological impact of the site on people and the environment, for example:
- changes in land use (such as the introduction of different farming practices)
- changes in the habits of actual or potential critical groups
- introduction of new non-human species
- changes in weather conditions
The operator should make arrangements with relevant stakeholders to be informed of changes and, where appropriate, consulted on proposed changes. In particular, the operator should arrange with the local planning authorities to be consulted on proposed changes in land use.
The operator must maintain and update dispersion databases and other radiological impact assessment parameters for existing facility sites, and notify us when changes are made to these databases.