Introduction: definition and extent of the problem

The situations dealt with in this chapter are interventions for areas that have been contaminated as a result of human activities and that could cause prolonged radiation exposure. In this context, the term ‘areas’ is used in its broadest sense and can include land, forests, urban environments and indus­trial sites. These areas may have been contaminated as a result of inade­quate practices for radioactive waste management and disposal, radioactive discharges to the environment that did not meet regulatory requirements, nuclear accidents, atomic weapon tests, incidental releases of radionuclides by users of radioactive material or past practices that were not adequately controlled. This chapter also applies to radioactive discharges from facilities that were managed in accordance with less stringent requirements than those that are applied today (IAEA, 2006a). However, this chapter is not specifically intended for the management of huge amounts of uranium/ thorium mill tailings or naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM), which have their own specific circumstances and management options.

Some examples of contamination that might be encountered are given below. The list is not exhaustive but is intended to show the wide range of problems that might be found. Finally, although this chapter is intended for radioactively contaminated sites, the need for environmental remediation also includes non-radioactive, toxic contaminants that may be associated.

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