469013 A New Framework for Radiological Impact Assessment in Life Cycle Assessment

Wednesday, November 16, 2016: 1:20 PM
Union Square 15 & 16 (Hilton San Francisco Union Square)
Andrea Paulillo, Chemical Engineering, University College London, London, United Kingdom, Andrew Milliken, Sellafield Ltd., United Kingdom, Steve Palethorpe, National Nuclear Laboratory, United Kingdom, Roland Clift, School of Engineering, University of Surrey, Guildford, United Kingdom and Paola Lettieri, Department of Chemical Engineering, University College London - Torrington Place, London WC1E 7JE, United Kingdom

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a technique aimed at understanding and assessing the relations between human activities and environment. Notably, it is extensively used to compare alternative power-generating technologies and waste management approaches from a sustainable point of view. However, in the nuclear industry, the LCA approach is either applied poorly or not at all. The main reason may be found in the lack of a consistent and standardised approach for the assessment of the impact of ionising radiation. In theory such impact is caused by both the direct radionuclide releases to air or waters from operations, and from nuclear waste stored in a final disposal facility. In fact the few methodologies available today neglect the radiological impact arising from solid nuclear waste. This lack of consistency prevents comparative LCA studies to be applied to the nuclear industry and undermines the results of the few published.

The aim of this work is to address this issue by proposing a new framework to be included as a standard procedure in the LCA framework. This framework envisages four steps and assesses the impact of ionising radiation in terms of risk of detrimental effect to human beings. Notably, both air and water releases, and solid waste are included. The fate analysis indeed represents the key step in the methodology, as it aims at quantifying the environmental concentration of a specific pollutant at the receptor location. Given the general framework, two alternative methodologies have been developed and operationalised; they differ in the models underpinning the fate analysis. In one methodology the IAEA generic models [1] coupled with the UK Radioactive Waste Management (RWM) Ltd.’s Post-Closure Safety Assessment [2] is used; whilst, in the other case, a MacKay-type model is adopted to simulate a compartmental multi-media environment. The general approach the two alternative methodologies and the main challenges involving their inclusion in the LCA framework will be discussed at the conference.

For the purposes of demonstrating the proposed framework the UK current approach for Nuclear Spent Fuel management is adopted as a case study. According to the approach proposed by Clift et al. [3], the system is divided into two subsystems: Foreground and Background. ‘Real’ data from UK nuclear facilities is used for the processes in the foreground system. Along with the proposed methodology, several other impact categories, including Global Warming Potential, will be analysed. Results of the study will show the overall environmental performance and will also allow to identify the sections of the UK spent nuclear fuel reprocessing procedure that have the most radiological and non-radiological impact. Particular emphasis will be given to the comparison between direct radioactive releases and solid nuclear waste. Preliminary results of the LCA study will be presented at the conference.

[1] IAEA, “Generic Models for Use in Assessing the Impact of Discharges of Radioactive Substances to the Environment - Safety Series,” Vienna, 2001.

[2] NDA, “Geological Disposal: Generic post-closure safety assessment,” 2010.

[3] R. Clift, A. Doig, and G. Finnveden, “The Application of Life Cycle Assessment to Integrated Solid Waste Management,” Process Saf. Environ. Prot., vol. 78, no. 4, pp. 279–287, 2000.

Extended Abstract: File Not Uploaded
See more of this Session: Environmental Health & Safety and Sustainability
See more of this Group/Topical: Sustainable Engineering Forum