Total clean-up is mostly illusory

If might be intellectually satisfying to seek total clean-up, but experience shows that this goal is often illusory and generates unnecessary costs. Indeed, what does total clean-up mean? Should we seek to return to the background noise level, regardless of the cost incurred? The house in Gif — sur-Yvette shows that even having reached a dose rate for Ra-226 in the range of background noise (0.1 mSv/h) in the home, radon levels remain significant and close to the pseudo-limit of 400 Bq/m3. Substantial resources have been committed without the possibility of cleaning the house completely, simply because working on the house itself without addressing the surrounding land amounted to moving the pollution limit without elimi­nating it (radon, in its migration in the ground, ignores administrative boundaries). Total clean-up is only possible for localized pollution. Even then, it is still necessary to agree on a target value for pollution control, and therefore on the residual contamination that is left behind, which de facto contradicts the idea of total clean-up.

Similarly, on an industrial site, considerable sums were spent to treat the site, and thus produced contaminated soil now stored at the CEA (the Cadarache site). The cost of disposal of the soil is assessed at over € 2 million even though the original site is still not completely cleaned up. The pursuit of an illusory goal of total clean-up has led to considerable — and probably unjustified — expense without the goal being reached.

In its communications with the media, ANDRA must refrain from using a term as misleading and meaningless as the ‘total clean-up’.

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