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Radiological Protection in Geological Disposal of Long-lived Solid Radioactive Waste

ICRP Publication 122

Ann. ICRP 42(3), 2013

W. Weiss, C-M. Larsson, C. McKenney, J-P. Minon, S. Mobbs, T. Schneider, H. Umeki, W. Hilden, C. Pescatore, M. Vesterlind


Abstract - This report updates and consolidates previous recommendations of the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) related to solid waste disposal. The recommendations given apply specifically to geological disposal of long-lived solid radioactive waste. The report explains how the ICRP system of radiological protection described in Publication 103 can be applied in the context of the geological disposal of long-lived solid radioactive waste. Although the report is written as a standalone document, previous ICRP recommendations not dealt with in depth in the report are still valid.

The 2007 ICRP system of radiological protection evolves from the previous process-based protection approach relying on the distinction between practices and interventions by moving to an approach based on the distinction between three types of exposure situation: planned, emergency and existing. The Recommendations maintains the Commission’s three fundamental principles of radiological protection namely: justification, optimisation of protection and the application of dose limits. They also maintain the current individual dose limits for effective dose and equivalent dose from all regulated sources in planned exposure situations. They re-enforce the principle of optimisation of radiological protection, which applies in a similar way to all exposure situations, subject to restrictions on individual doses: constraints for planned exposure situations, and reference levels for emergency and existing exposure situations. The Recommendations also include an approach for developing a framework to demonstrate radiological protection of the environment.

This report describes the different stages in the life time of a geological disposal facility, and addresses the application of relevant radiological protection principles for each stage depending on the various exposure situations that can be encountered. In particular, the crucial factor that influences the application of the protection system over the different phases in the life time of a disposal facility is the level of oversight or ‘watchful care’ that is present. The level of oversight affects the capability to control the source, i.e. the waste and the repository, and to avoid or reduce potential exposures. Three main time frames are considered: time of direct oversight, when the disposal facility is being implemented and is under active supervision; time of indirect oversight, when the disposal facility is sealed and oversight is being exercised by regulators or special administrative bodies or society at large to provide additional assurance on behalf of society; and time of no oversight, when oversight is no longer exercised in case memory of the disposal facility is lost.

Recommended reference format for citations

ICRP, 2013. Radiological protection in geological disposal of long-lived solid radioactive waste. ICRP Publication 122. Ann. ICRP 42(3).


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