Radioactive contamination to be included in Part IIA

The Part IIA contaminated land regime will be extended to include radioactively contaminated land, Chris Wilson of DEFRA's radioactive substances unit told an NSCA conference this week.

Although military and nuclear power sites are already regulated under the Nuclear Installations Act, there are approximately 50,000 sites in the UK which may be contaminated due to past industrial use, most of which are closed landfills and luminaries.

Between one and two hundred of these are thought to be contaminated to such an extent that they represent a threat to human health.

DEFRA plans to publish industry profiles of land uses which may have led to contamination, which will include prioritisation advice for local authorities. A public consultation will be carried out, although it is still some months away, followed by the publication of revised Part IIA guidance. The new regulations are expected to be in place by the end of next year.

Wilson confirmed that radioactive contamination will lead to sites being given ‘special’ status, and said that the regulations will need to meet the requirements of the Basic Safety Standards (BSS) Directive [96/29/Euratom].

Article 48.2 states: “Intervention shall be undertaken only if the reduction in detriment due to radiation is sufficient to justify the harm and costs, including social costs,
of the intervention.”

The reference to social costs is crucial in this case, as Part IIA will need to be adapted to take this into account.

A final decision is yet to be made on the level at which intervention will be required, although it is extremely likely this will be in the 1-4 millisievert range.

DEFRA also will not confirm if a duty to inspect will be imposed on local authorities, or if they will merely be given the power to do so. Current thinking, however, is that a duty may be counterproductive, tying up resources in inspections and restricting actual remediation.

By Rob Bell

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