Increasing numbers of nuclear power stations are reaching the end of their commercially useful lives. Their sites are being released today from regulatory control either on the basis of case by case criteria or on the basis of national regulations. The central basis for radiation protection of the public in both approaches is the individual dose criteria applied in the consideration of the release of the site.
The management of the relatively large quantities of very low level radioactive material that arises during the decommissioning of the nuclear power stations being shut down has become a major subject of discussion, with very significant economic implications. Much of this material can, in an environmentally advantageous manner, be recycled for reuse without radiological restrictions. Much larger quantities — 2–3 orders of magnitude larger — of material, radiologically similar to the candidate material for recycling from the nuclear industry, arises in non-nuclear industries like coal, fertiliser, oil and gas, mining, etc. In such industries, naturally occurring radioactivity is artificially concentrated in products, by-products or waste to form TENORM (Technologically Enhanced Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material). There are, however, many significant strategic issues that need to be discussed and resolved, such as types of risks to be considered, disposal, commercial and other aspects which can and should influence decisions on release criteria. An important issue is to avoid “double” standards that are being proposed by international organisations for the nuclear and non-nuclear industries.