It is recognized that the presence of radionuclides causes fear, as radiation is not visible and its effects may only be noticeable after long periods of time. A remediation programme, therefore, has to address not only the scientific aspects of the problem, but also its societal dimension. One impor­tant aspect of the societal dimension is the communication between the different parties having an interest in the problem, i. e. the stakeholders. Communication is often hampered by differing levels of knowledge of the subject and the specific language associated with it. In addition, there may be human values and expectations that are not shared by the different groups of stakeholders.

One cannot forget that ER of radioactively contaminated sites is also linked in people ’s mind to the prevailing views of different societies on nuclear power. The perception is that this technology had been historically associated with technological ‘hubris’, over-optimistic claims of its initial promoters, and military uses and secrecy; major accidents (e. g. Chernobyl and Fukushima), intense environmental concerns associated with RAW disposal and the stigma on communities associated with contaminated areas. There is also a widespread distrust in regulators, governments and practitioners to provide truthful information and manage risk responsibility. However, a key element that needs to be considered is that communities located very near existing nuclear power stations may hold more favourable attitudes to any new development than those who live much further away. This may be an indication than familiarity with the issue may be a positive element as people will tend to reject what they do not know. One potential avenue to explore in terms of public acceptance to remediation projects may be to share the opinions of communities living in remediated areas with those communities that will undergo a process of ER.

Involving the various stakeholders in the remediation programme will be beneficial to all parties concerned and it is advisable to involve them from an early point in the process.

Public participation in decision-making processes regarding the living environment is backed up by international agreements; one example is the Aarhus Declaration (UNECE, 1998). See the following excerpt from the Aarhus Declaration:

We recognize and support the crucial role played in society by environmental NGOs (non-governmental organizations) as an important channel for articulating the opinions of the environmentally concerned public. An engaged, critically aware public is essential to a healthy democracy. By helping to empower individual citizens and environmental NGOs to play an active role in environ­mental policy-making and awareness raising, the Aarhus Convention will promote responsible environmental citizenship and better enable all members of society to fulfill their duty, both individually and in association with others, to protect and improve the environment for the benefit of present and future generations.

Remediation projects tend, to a large extent, to be driven by stakeholder (generally laypeople) opinions. Contrary to what is proposed by interna­tional recommendations, interested parties may wish to drive remediation projects well below clean-up levels that would be recommended if only risk criteria were taken into account. It is not uncommon that in some occasions it is suggested/demanded by laypeople the return of the contaminated land to the conditions prior to the occurrence of contamination even if no com­mensurable benefit for the population/community potentially affected by the contaminated land were achieved. This tendency may cause ‘over­remediation’ of the site or expenditure of resources (e. g., due to excessive production of wastes) which are greater than necessary in terms of cost — benefit. In other words, resources that could be invested in other priorities, with clearer and measurable social benefit, will be spent in favour of the remediation of the site with the objective of meeting the demands of the target community. These demands may be sustained mainly by the percep­tion and fear of radiological impacts rather than by the real effects that would be incurred by the population. A comprehensive overview of non­technical factors in an ER project (with a focus on stakeholders’ views and factors) is given in IAEA (2002). In particular, this report expands on the role that planned (or preferred) land use may play in the ER decision making. It is evident that residual (post-ER) radioactive concentrations greater than ‘greenfield’ criteria may prevent certain uses of the site (e. g., residential); conversely, a ‘brownfield’ end-state may still allow reuse of the site (e. g., for industrial purposes), be acceptable to the public and cost much less. The reader could usefully consult two more IAEA reports focusing on the parallel field of decommissioning (IAEA, 2006c; 2011). The reader should note that several technical aspects are common to decommissioning and ER: Fig. 8.3 exemplifies a typical case in question, i. e. the removal of underground pipes that may have leaked and contaminated the environment.


8.3 Removal of underground pipes, Argonne National Laboratory, USA.

314 Radioactive waste management and contaminated site clean-up

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