Clearance is a very important part of any effective waste management strategy for both operating and decommissioning nuclear facilities. Radioactive waste disposal capacity is becoming an increasingly valuable resource and costs for disposal of radioactive wastes continue to dramatically rise. Considerable cost savings may be realised by efficient segregation of essentially non-radioactive material from radioactive wastes. The release of these materials from licensed nuclear sites for disposal, reuse or recycle without further regulatory controls is commonly referred to by the nuclear industry as “clearance”. Although much effort has been directed at establishing national clearance levels, below which, materials may be released without further regulatory controls, there is little practical guidance regarding implementation into local waste management programmes. Compliance with regulatory clearance limits is a relatively straightforward technical exercise involving appropriate management control and monitoring of the material. Whilst this is sufficient to avoid prosecution for breach of regulatory requirements, it is not sufficient to avoid a myriad of political and public relations land mines. When material is unconditionally released, unless additional attention is given to management of its future destination off-site, it may end up anywhere. The worst nightmare for a waste manager at a nuclear site is headlines in local and national newspapers such as, “RADIOACTIVE WASTE DISPOSED IN LOCAL MUNICIPAL LANDFILL,” or, “RADIOACTIVE WASTE USED AS CONSTRUCTION MATERIAL FOR CHILDRENS PLAYGROUND,” etc. Even if the material were released legally, the cost of recovering from such a situation is potentially very large, and such public relations disasters could threaten to end the clearance programme at the given site, if not nationally. This paper describes how national regulatory clearance levels have been implemented for the decommissioning of the Dounreay nuclear site in the far north of Scotland. It specifically focuses on the management of public relations aspects of clearance in order to limit the exposure to non-regulatory pressures and liabilities associated with clearance programmes from nuclear sites. The issues are put into context for uncontaminated wastes, trace contaminated wastes and management of contaminated land.

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