Options Appraisal and Optimisation

There are usually various options available for managing industrial processes and their impact on the environment. Invariably, it is valuable to compare the benefits and disadvantages of each in terms of important factors such as technical performance, cost, health, environmental and social issues.

This might be done at the level of plans or programmes, in which case a Strategic Environmental Assessment or Sustainability Assessment would be carried out, or at a project level where an Environmental Impact Assessment would be appropriate. Within the UK the primary vehicle for demonstrating optimisation in the context of radioactive waste management is through performing a Best Available Techniques (BAT) study. Such a process needs to be consistent with regulatory optimisation principles as well as other sources of best practice guidance.  Such guidance is not prescriptive in terms of how an optimisation assessment should be undertaken, but they establish expectations regarding process and fitness for purpose that are intended to support building consensus in a proposed solution.

The interpretation of BAT (or, more broadly, optimisation) in the context of radioactive waste management has tended to a fairly broad remit, reflecting the desire to minimise, so far as is practicable, the release of radioactivity to the environment while also taking into account a wider range of factors, including cost-effectiveness, technological status and feasibility, operational safety, wider environmental considerations (such as energy and other resource use) and socio-economic factors. Thus studies need to take into account of concerns associated with a range of stakeholder perspectives.

Quintessa has considerable experience of applying such options assessment approaches to a range of situations. Quintessa has supported options assessments for national programmes such as the UK’s Committee of Radiative Waste Management (CoRWM) and has led, or had a leading role in (for example) high-profile options assessments and optimisation studies for the design of radioactive waste repositories, for the treatment of sludge wastes for legacy facilities, and the management diverse sets of hazardous decommissioning wastes. Quintessa has also supported site end-state decisions, major investment portfolio choices, and site selection for radioactive waste repositories and underground CO2 storage systems.

Also, Quintessa has contributed to the SAFEGROUNDS project to develop best practice guidance for the management of contaminated land on nuclear and defence sites, and supported the development of regulatory guidance on the assessment of BPEO (now BAT).