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An Assessment of the Radiological Impact of Coastal Erosion of the UK Low-Level Waste Repository

[+] Author Affiliations
Trevor Sumerling, John Shevelan, Richard Cummings

LLWR Ltd., Drigg, Holmrook, Cumbria, UK

Paul Fish

Halcrow Group Ltd., Birmingham, UK

George Towler

Quintessa Ltd., Warrington, UK

James Penfold

Quintessa Ltd., Henley-on-Thames, UK

Paper No. ICEM2011-59137, pp. 1341-1350; 10 pages
  • ASME 2011 14th International Conference on Environmental Remediation and Radioactive Waste Management
  • ASME 2011 14th International Conference on Environmental Remediation and Radioactive Waste Management, Parts A and B
  • Reims, France, September 25–29, 2011
  • Conference Sponsors: Nuclear Engineering Division and Environmental Engineering Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-5498-3
  • Copyright © 2011 by ASME


The UK Low Level Waste Repository Ltd submitted an Environmental Safety Case for the disposal of low-level waste to our regulator, the Environment Agency, on the 1st of May 2011. This includes assessments of the long-term radiological safety of past and future disposals. A particular feature of the Low Level Waste Repository (LLWR) is that, because of its proximity to the coast, the site is vulnerable to coastal erosion. Our present understanding is that the site will be eroded on a timescale of a few hundred to a few thousand years, with consequent disruption of the repository, and dispersal of the wastes. We have undertaken a programme of scientific research and monitoring to characterise the evolution and function of the current coastal system that provides a basis for forecasting its future evolution. This has included modelling of contemporary hydrodynamics, geomorphological mapping, repeat LiDAR and aerial photographic surveys to detect patterns and rates of change, coastal inspections and reconstructions of post-glacial (i.e. last 15,000 years) sea levels and sediment budgets. Estimates of future sea-level rise have been derived from international sources and consideration given to the impact of such on the local coastline. Two alternative models of coastal recession have then been applied, one empirical and one physical-process based, taking account of the composition of Quaternary-age sediments between the coast and the site and uncertainties in future local sea level change. Comparison of the ranges of calculated times to site contact with sea-level rise indicate that the repository is most likely to be disrupted by undercutting of the engineered vaults and of the trenches. A novel and flexible radiological assessment model has been developed to analyse the impacts of the erosion of the repository and subsequent dispersal of wastes. The model represents the spatial layout of the site and distribution of radionuclides within the repository and is able to take account of a range of uncertainties. These include uncertainties related to the rate of erosion through the facility, amounts of co-erosion of geological and cap materials, alternative assumptions for residence of waste materials on the beach, alternative waste form associations, the wider dispersion of the eroded materials and marine sorption/desorption processes. Results indicate assessed annual doses and risks that are consistent with regulatory guidance levels.

Copyright © 2011 by ASME
Topics: Erosion



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