Representation of estuarine, coastal and marine biosphere systems within post-closure performance assessments supporting geological disposal of higher activity radioactive wastes in the UK

R. C. Walke, M. C. Thorne, J. T. Smith, R. Kowe

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    Abstract

    Radioactive Waste Management Limited (RWM) is tasked with implementing geological disposal of the United Kingdom's (UK) higher activity radioactive wastes. This paper describes how RWM's biosphere modelling capability has been extended from a solely terrestrial model to allow potential contaminant releases to estuarine, coastal and marine systems around the UK to be represented. The new models aim to strike a balance between being as simple as can be justified, erring on the side of conservative estimates of potential doses, while also representing the features and processes required to reflect and distinguish UK coastal systems. Sediment dynamics (including meandering of estuaries and sediment accumulation) are explicitly represented in a simplified form that captures the accumulation and remobilization of radionuclides. Long-term transitions between biosphere systems (such as from a salt marsh to a terrestrial system) are outside the scope of the study. The models and supporting data draw on information about the UK that is representative of present-day conditions and represent potential exposures arising from both occupational and recreational habits.

    Generic calculations demonstrate that potential doses to humans arising from releases to estuarine, coastal and marine systems are typically more than two orders of magnitude lower than those for equivalent releases to terrestrial systems via well water and groundwater discharge to soil. The extended capability (i) ensures that RWM is able to undertake assessments for potential coastal site contexts, if and when required, and (ii) provides RWM with quantitative evidence to support the principal focus on terrestrial releases (particularly for more generic assessments).
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1467-1474
    JournalMineralogical Magazine
    Volume79
    Issue number6
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2015

    Keywords

    • radioactive waste
    • biosphere
    • estuary
    • coastal
    • marine
    • dose assessment

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