Radioactive material and radioactive waste which is ‘out of scope’ of the Environmental Authorisations (Scotland) Regulations 2018
The definition of radioactive material and radioactive waste and the associated decision making process is shown diagrammatically in Figure 1. The text in Figure 1 is necessarily abbreviated and should be read in conjunction with EASR and this guidance.
Any radioactive substances activity that is not specifically set out in the following sections is out of scope of EASR. A radioactive substances activity has to be specifically included in EASR for it to be considered ‘radioactive’ and fall within the scope of regulation; EASR can therefore be considered to be an ‘inclusive’ regime.
Definition of radioactive material
EASR defines a substance or article as radioactive material only if it falls within one or more of the following categories:
i. It is used in, or arises from, a NORM industrial activity listed in Table 1 of this guidance and the concentration of radionuclides in the material exceeds the values in columns 2 (solid or ‘relevant liquid’), 3 (aqueous liquid) or 4 (gaseous) of Table 2 of this guidance.
ii. It contains NORM listed in Table 3 of this guidance that is used for its radioactive, fissile or fertile properties and for solids and ‘relevant liquids’, the concentration of the radionuclides in the material exceeds the values shown in column 2 of Table 3.
iii. It contains artificial radionuclides and for solids and ‘relevant liquids’, the concentration of radionuclides in the material exceeds the values shown in column 2 of Table 3.
If a material falls within one or more of these categories it is still possible for it not to be classed as radioactive, and be out of scope of EASR, if it meets one of the criteria set out below:
i. All radionuclides contained in the material are of short half-life (less than 100 seconds).
ii. Its radioactivity is solely attributable to artificial background radiation.
iv. It has been previously lawfully disposed of as a waste, or is contaminated as a result of such a disposal, unless subject to a process which causes an increase in radiation exposure.
v. It has arisen from the remediation of land contaminated by Ra-226 prior to 13 May 2000 and the values are less than those given in Table 2.
Substances or articles that contain NORM and that are not used for a NORM industrial activity and that are not used for their radioactive, fissile or fertile properties are out of scope of EASR and are therefore not radioactive material.
All aqueous liquids containing either artificial radionuclides or NORM used for their radioactive, fissile or fertile properties (except ‘relevant liquids’) and all gases containing such radionuclides are radioactive material in scope of EASR, irrespective of concentration.
Definition of radioactive waste
EASR defines ‘waste’ as ‘any substance or object which the holder discards or intends or is required to discard’; and defines it as ‘radioactive waste’ only if it falls within one or more of the following categories:
i. It arises from NORM industrial activities listed in Table 1, and the concentrations of radionuclides in the waste are greater than the values in columns 2 (solid or ‘relevant liquid’), 3 (aqueous liquid) or 4 (gaseous) of Table 2.
ii. It contains NORM radionuclides listed in Table 3 that are used for their radioactive, fissile or fertile properties, and, for solids and ‘relevant liquids’, the concentration of the radionuclides in the waste exceeds the values shown in column 2 of Table 3.
iii. It contains artificial radionuclides, and, for solids and ‘relevant liquids’, the concentration of radionuclides in the waste exceeds the values shown in column 2 of Table 3.
If a waste falls within one or more of these categories it is still possible for it not to be classed as radioactive, and be out of the scope of EASR, if it meets one of the five criteria set out below:
i. All radionuclides contained in the material are of short half-life (<100 seconds).
ii. Its radioactivity is solely attributable to artificial background radiation.
iii. It has been previously lawfully disposed of as a waste, or is contaminated as a result of such a disposal, unless subject to a process which causes an increase in radiation exposure.
iv. It has arisen from the remediation of land contaminated by Ra-226 prior to 13 May 2000 and the values are less than those given in Table 2.
Waste that contains NORM and that does not arise from a NORM industrial activity, and that is not used for their radioactive, fissile or fertile properties is out of scope of EASR and are therefore not radioactive waste.
All aqueous liquid waste containing either artificial radionuclides or NORM used for their radioactive, fissile or fertile properties (except ‘relevant liquids’) and all gaseous waste containing such radionuclides are radioactive waste in scope of EASR, irrespective of concentration.
Unlisted radionuclides and activities
Natural radionuclides that are not listed in Table 2 or Table 3 are out of scope of EASR. Examples of such radionuclides are potassium-40 and samarium-147. Materials or waste containing only unlisted radionuclides are not radioactive material or radioactive waste.
Radon is not included as a main entry in Table 2 or Table 3; however, it is included as a component of the decay series of some of the radionuclides that are listed. This means, for instance, that radon in natural gas is out of scope of EASR. However, where radon is present as a result of the management of radioactive material that contains radium, or the accumulation and disposal of radioactive waste that contains radium, the Government expects that the regulators will take account of any related radon exposures to the public and the environment when regulating the material or waste containing radium. For example: although radon in natural gas is out of scope of EASR (the storage, distribution and use of natural gas is not a listed industrial activity), radon exposures to the public resulting from the disposal of wastes containing radium is a legitimate regulatory consideration for such wastes and should be accounted for in any radiological impact assessment undertaken.
There is a catch-all provision in Table 3 for non-listed artificial radionuclides: 0.01 Bq/g. Alternatively, for these radionuclides only, an appropriate radionuclide-specific value can be calculated based on the concentration which gives rise to a dose to a member of the public of 10 µSv/year in accordance with the methodology in IAEA RS-G-1.7.
This means that a person may use the ‘out of scope’ provisions based on their own calculations, provided that the calculations are carried out using the same methodology as that which was used to calculate the values in the table. Any person considering performing this type of calculation is advised to discuss with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency beforehand.
NORM industrial activities
There are many activities involving radioactivity that are out of scope of EASR. An example is the collection, preparation and display of geological specimens which contain naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM). For the purposes of EASR, any such activities that are not listed in Table 1 do not involve radioactive material or radioactive waste. This is because, following Euratom guidance, it is believed that the radiological consequences of such activities are trivial. Only those ‘NORM industrial activities’ which could lead to the need for controls are regulated under EASR.
Natural background radioactivity
Naturally-occurring radionuclides in their normal setting or location are out of scope of EASR unless they have been processed for their radioactive, fissile or fertile properties. For instance, the fabric of buildings and equipment are out of scope of EASR, even if they contain background uranium.
However, the fabric of buildings or equipment that have been contaminated by radionuclides that originate from a NORM industrial activity or by radionuclides that have been used for their radioactive, fissile or fertile properties, are in scope of EASR. Most of the values in Table 2 for NORM industrial activities are based on IAEA RS-G-1.7 values. These values have been chosen as the optimum boundary between, on one hand, the average activity concentrations in soil generally measured worldwide and, on the other hand, activity concentrations in ores, mineral sands, industrial residues and wastes. Therefore there is no need to discount background from the measured NORM. However, the background activity can be discounted for NORM radionuclides where Table 3 applies i.e. where the radionuclides have been used for their radioactive, fissile or fertile properties
The activity concentration of uranium from natural background should not be deducted when the uranium is used as a feedstock or product of a practice; for instance, the manufacture of nuclear fuel.
Artificial background radioactivity
Artificial radionuclides which are present throughout the environment, for example as a result of atmospheric weapons tests and accidents, are not in scope of EASR. An example is the run-off of rainwater from buildings that can contain Cs-137, which is in global circulation as a result of atmospheric weapons tests or the Chernobyl accident. This rainwater is not radioactive material and, if disposed of to a drain, is not radioactive waste.
If a material or waste contains both artificial radionuclides which are ‘background’ and additional artificial radionuclides, the background component can be discounted, if it is possible to do so, when determining if a substance exceeds the Table 3 concentrations. This background can be either measured prior to the addition of the additional radionuclides, or estimated based on prior knowledge, for example, estimated from the known provenance of the material. For example, rainwater contains known quantities of the radioisotope caesium-137 due to fallout from the atmosphere. If this concentration is known, it can be deducted from the total caesium-137 concentration in rainwater collected in storm water drainage systems on nuclear sites when deciding whether or not out of scope values have been exceeded.
The provisions in EASR which deal with artificial background are not intended to exclude radionuclides which are present in the environment as a result of authorised discharges; localised concentrations of such radionuclides should not be considered ‘normal’ if they can be attributed to such discharges; such contamination is explicitly addressed in a separate provision. Building further on the example of artificial background Cs-137 in rainwater, if its activity concentration is increased due to Cs-137 arising from an authorised discharge, then the additional activity concentration is not excluded by this provision, and is therefore in scope of EASR
Where a substance or article contains multiple radionuclides, they must all be taken into account when determining if that substance or article is in scope of EASR. Tables 2 and 3 both have summation rules that should be used.
The Table 2 summation rule is the sum of the ratios A/B where:
A. means the concentration of each radionuclide listed in column 1 of Table 2 that is present in the substance or article; and
B. means the concentration of that radionuclide specified in (as appropriate)
(i) column 2 of Table 2 where the material or waste is a solid or a ‘relevant liquid’;
(ii) column 3 of Table 2 where the material or waste is any other liquid; or
(iii) column 4 of Table 2 where the material or waste is a gas.
The Table 3 summation rule is the sum of the ratios A/B where:
A. means the concentration of each radionuclide listed in column 1 of Table 3 that is present in the material or waste, and
B. means the concentration of that radionuclide specified in column 2 of Table 3. Only when the summation rule gives an answer >1 is the material or waste radioactive.
If a substance has been identified as being or intended to be processed for its radioactive fissile or fertile properties then all of the radionuclides, including those that are of natural terrestrial or cosmic origin, that are listed in Table 3 should be considered when comparing the radionuclide concentration to the Table 3 values.
The only natural radionuclides that are listed in Table 3 are those in the U-238, U-235 and Th-232 decay chains. Other radionuclides of natural terrestrial or cosmic origin such as K-40 and Sm-147 have been deliberately omitted from Table 3 and are out of scope of EASR.
Radionuclides with a short half-life
Any substance or article that contains only radionuclides with a half-life not exceeding 100 seconds is out of scope of EASR. This applies to all normal physical forms - solid, liquid and gas. If the substance or article contains radionuclides with a half-life exceeding 100 seconds then the activity of all relevant radionuclides (in Table 1, Table 2 or Table 3 as appropriate), including those with a half-life less than 100 seconds, must be included in any calculation to determine whether the article is in or out of scope of EASR.
Historic radium contamination
A substance or article is not radioactive material or radioactive waste where it arises from the remediation of land contaminated by Ra-226 or its progeny provided that:
- The contamination occurred prior to 13 May 2000 (coming into force date of European Council Directive 96/29/Euratom);
- In the absence of Ra-226 or its progeny, the substance or article would not otherwise be radioactive material or radioactive waste; and
- The concentration of Ra-226 and its resulting progeny do not exceed the values given below (which are the same as those given in Table 2 for Ra-226+)
i. For solids or ‘relevant liquids’ 1 Bq/g
ii. For any other liquids 1 Bq/l
iii. For gases 0.01 Bq/m3 (this does not include radon-222 and its short-lived progeny)
Gaseous NORM waste from oil and gas production
There are incidental releases of gaseous NORM waste arising from the production of oil and gas, for example from process gas flares, vents on storage tanks or fugitive releases. These gaseous discharges are out of scope of EASR so long as they are below the levels in Schedule 8, Table 1, column 4 of EASR.
Contamination by lawful disposal
A substance is not radioactive material or radioactive waste where its radionuclide content is attributable to a lawful disposal. For example, due to an authorised discharge of liquid or gaseous waste to the environment or due to migration in the environment after final closure of an authorised solid waste disposal facility.
In the case of a disposal facility designed solely for the burial of solid radioactive waste, the deposited material remains ‘radioactive waste’ until the authorisation relating to disposal has been surrendered or revoked.
However, a substance is radioactive material or radioactive waste where, following its disposal, a process occurs which results in an increase in radiation exposure to the public or radioactive contamination of the environment.
The question of what may or may not have been envisaged at the time of disposal is not straightforward. The requirement can be taken to mean those matters which may have reasonably been foreseen at the time of disposal. For example, if waste was retrieved from a solid waste disposal facility following surrender or revocation of the facility's authorisation, that waste would be radioactive waste.
As an example of an increase which is not substantial, background concentrations of tritium (H-3) are relatively high in certain locations for a variety of reasons. If tritium contaminated property is remediated (a process not foreseen at the time of disposal), this is not likely to lead to a substantial increase in dose for members of the public.
Only the radionuclides associated with the disposal should be considered when deciding whether the resulting dose is significant; background radioactivity can be discounted.
EASR defines a ‘relevant liquid’ as a non-aqueous liquid, and certain types of aqueous liquid with specified hazardous properties. The purpose of this definition is to allow such liquids to be treated, for the purposes of this legislation, as a solid because the exposure pathways are the same as those for solids.
Table 2 contains three columns, one for each of ‘solids’, ‘aqueous liquids’, and ‘gases’. Table 3 has one column – for solids. For the purposes of waste disposal, the radiological impact assessments which support the values in the tables are based on reasonable assumptions. For instance, the drinking water pathway giving rise to a human radiation dose is a major feature of the assessment for aqueous liquids, but not for solids. Solids are not usually (or legally) disposed of directly to rivers, for example, and other legislation is intended to prevent such an activity.
There are certain liquids, for instance mercury and oils, for which the drinking water pathway can also be ruled out, not least because other pollution control legislation does not allow disposal to the water environment. This legislation therefore allows such liquids to be compared with the values in the ‘solids’ column of Table 2 and Table 3; it assumes that the disposal of such material is to a conventional ‘solid’ waste route; that is, not disposed of to drains, sewers, open water or groundwater. A ‘conventional’ route includes disposal or transfer for the purposes of reuse or recycling.
There are certain aqueous liquids with specified hazardous properties which can likewise be treated as ‘solids’ for the purposes of this legislation (‘relevant liquids’). Again, the drinking water pathway can be ruled out, not least because other pollution control legislation does not allow disposals to the water environment. This legislation therefore allows such liquids to be compared with the values in the ‘solids’ column of Table 2 and Table 3; it assumes that the disposal of such materials is to a conventional ‘solid’ waste route; that is, not disposed of to drains, sewers, open water or groundwater. In order to define this class of liquids, reference is made in EASR to Council Regulation No. 1272/2008, which defines certain substances as being hazardous to health above specified concentration values. Aqueous liquids which exhibit acute toxicity, skin corrosion/irritation, or are acutely hazardous to the aquatic environment come within this class. Again, an assumption has been made that the disposal of such materials is to a conventional ‘solid’ waste route; that is, not disposed of to drains, sewers, open water or groundwater. A ‘conventional’ route includes disposal or transfer for the purposes of treatment, reuse or recycling.
Table 1: NORM Industrial Activities
- NORM industrial activities
- Production and use of thorium, or thorium compounds, and the production of products where thorium is deliberately added
- Production and use of uranium compounds, and the production of products where uranium is deliberately added
- Extraction and production of rare earth elements and rare earth element alloys
- Mining and processing of ores other than uranium ore
- Production (but not storage, distribution or use) of oil and gas
- Removal and management of radioactive scales and precipitates from equipment associated with industrial activities. For example, activities such as maintenance of clinker ovens for cement production and boilers used at coal-fired power stations.
- Any industrial activity utilising phosphate ore
- Manufacture of titanium dioxide pigments
- The extraction and refining of zircon and manufacture of zirconium compounds
- Production of tin, copper, aluminium, zinc, lead and iron and steel
- Activities related to coal mine de-watering plants
- China clay extraction
- Water treatment associated with provision of drinking water
- Geothermal energy production
|Radionuclide||Solid or relevant liquid activity concentration (Bq/g)||Any other liquid activity concentration (Bq/l)||Gaseous activity concentration (Bq/m3)|
Table 3: Activity concentration of radionuclides in ‘practices’
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The Scottish Government
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