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Characterization surveys

An ORISE technicians performs a characterization survey

The Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) performs independent, objective characterization surveys to define the extent of radiological contamination at sites scheduled for decontamination and decommissioning (D&D). A fundamental aspect of all D&D projects, characterization surveys provide guidance to determine the best remediation procedures and are a cost-effective method of ensuring a site meets preliminary regulatory standards.

ORISE designs characterization surveys using the data quality objectives process. This approach focuses on the particular objective of characterization, and ensures that only the data needed to address the characterization decisions are collected. Data collection efforts are streamlined, allowing more resources to be spent on actual cleanup and risk reduction efforts. The characterization survey consists of surface scans using Global Positioning Systems to document locations where radiation has been detected, as well as media sampling and radiochemical analyses.

In conjunction with the characterization survey, ORISE health physicists can also provide reviews of waste management plans and develop waste profiles. These analyses help ensure environmental assessment of the radiological contaminants present at the survey site is adequate to eventual material disposition.

Benefits of ORISE characterization:

  • Reduces uncertainty in the estimates of contaminated land and facilities.
  • Allows evaluation of various cleanup alternatives (unrestricted vs. restricted release).
  • Ensures minimal safety and health impact to cleanup workers and the environment.
  • Produces reliable estimates of radioactive waste volumes generated during D&D activities.
  • Greatly enhances public credibility and builds stakeholder trust in environmental cleanup activities.

ORISE also provides preliminary or scoping surveys to help our customers prepare for a more in-depth assessment. Scoping surveys typically include only cursory scanning and measurements and limited judgmental sampling to determine the presence of radioactive contaminants and identify possible paths of migration.

Designation or inclusion surveys can also be performed to determine whether a site is contaminated to the extent that regulatory guideline levels are exceeded. Survey procedures include a complete surface scan followed by direct measurements and collection of environmental samples.