A nuclear power plant, as any big power facility, has certain effects on the population and the environment. The peculiarity of NPPs is that their effects are radioactive. That’s why all NPPs give top priority to their radiation safety.

It is generally known that normally operating NPPs emit a certain amount of radio-nuclides into the environment. The point is that the volumetric activity of radio-nuclides emitted by normally operating NPPs is too low for them to be classified as “radioactive waste” and that their annual emission is closely controlled and limited by relevant authorities.

NPPs have always been in the spotlight and the regulation of their radioactive effects is given priority over similar activity in other industries. In the 1960s gas and aerosol emissions into the air and liquid releases into water were limited by special standards and rules. The sanitary rules in force before 2001 stipulated that the maximum irradiation dose to people living near NPPs from gas and aerosol emissions was 0.20 microsieverts a year and from liquid releases 0.05 microsieverts a year.

In 2000 the introduction of new radiation safety standards and sanitary rules for designing and operation of NPPs brought about quite new approaches to the regulation of their radiation effects on the population and the environment. The new approaches were based on the principle of optimization and the concept of standard risk.

This resulted in an unprecedented decision to set such allowable emission and allowable release levels so as to make irradiation dose for people living near NPPs negligibly low - lower than the minimum significant dose – 0.01 microsievert a year. This set the radiation risk lower than 10-6 a year. Just to compare, 10-6 mortality risk is generally accepted as negligible (it is equivalent to the average annual risk of death from the use of electric appliances and 100 times lower than the risk of death from a car accident) and is classified as acceptable.

The shift to the concept of acceptable radiation risk resulted in significant reduction in the allowable emission and release levels in force before 2000. In fact, the new levels are even higher than the real levels and allow for possible changes in operating regimes.

The new approaches to the regulation of the radiation affects of NPPs on the population and the environment have led to the following important results:


  • the admissible levels of radioactive emission are quite acceptable in terms of their effects on the population and the environment; 
  • the real levels of radioactive emission have been optimized and their further reduction would be economically unjustified; 
  • the task of NPPs for the near future is to preserve this level. 

According to the generally accepted approach, the key task of radiation control is to collect data and to calculate irradiation doses people receive from nuclear power plants so as to see if the applied levels of emissions are justified and if their control is effective.

Much work has been done to this end by Russian nuclear power plants in the last 30-40 years. As a result they have found out the following:


  • the radiation-hygienic situation has not changed since the launch of NPPs; 
  • the radiation situation at NPPs and in their nearby areas is within norm and is based on natural and cosmogenic radio-nuclides as well as global air pollution radio-nuclides produced by nuclear weapon tests and the Chernobyl accident; 
  • in the last years the real annual emission of radio-nuclides into the air does not exceed 30% of the relevant allowable levels specified by the existing sanitary rules for designing and operation of nuclear power plants; 
  • the real annual release of radio-nuclides into water is much lower than the standard level; 
  • the work of NPPs does not result in a rise in the average annual dose or significant radiation burdens on the population; 
  • the conservative annual irradiation dose to the critical groups of the population from gas and aerosol emissions by NPPs with WWER-1000-type reactors (PWR) is just 0.0001 microsievert, by NPPs with WWER-440- (PWR) and BN-600-type reactors (FBR) – 0.0005 microsievert and by NPPs with RBMK-type reactors (GMR) – 0.002 microsievert; 
  • the real releases into water depending on the type of an NPP and the type and size of a cooling pond hardly exceeds 0.001 microsievert. 

The analysis of the emission levels and the radiation situation in the NPP zones confirms that Russian nuclear reactors are safe and efficient and have reliable radiation safety systems.

One of the radiation safety principles specified by the International Atomic Energy Agency says that the generation using the benefits of nuclear energy and sources radiation must take care of the waste produced as a result of the production and use of radioactive materials.

The key goal of Rosenergoatom Concern in the field of radioactive waste treatment is to further reduce the amount of radioactive waste by introducing new progressive technologies.

All the nuclear power plants of Rosenergoatom Concern carry out systematic work to reduce the amount of their radioactive waste.

Presently, the Concern is drafting a concept to set up a specialized radioactive waste treatment enterprise so as to relieve NPPs of the task to treat their radioactive waste.

The development of the nuclear power industry directly depends on its ecological, radiation and nuclear safety.

In order to comply with the ecological legislation, all the NPPs of Rosenergoatom Concern have ecological services exercising ecological control of their work.

The potential sources of non-radioactive effects are auxiliary facilities (gas and masout boilers, diesel power plants, motor vehicles, maintenance and construction departments).

Nuclear power plants, together with water and thermal power plants, constitute the core of the Unified Power System of Russia.

Today, nuclear power plants have much lower effects on the environment than ordinary power plants (particularly, thermal power plants) (table 1).


Ecological consequences of the operation of thermal power plant and nuclear power plant with a capacity of 1GW


Consumption of fuel

5,900 ton a year

2,200 tons a year

2 600 000 m a year

200 tons a year – natural uranium

Consumption of oxygen, thous. m/year

5,500,000

3,400,000

4,400,000

no

Emmission, thous. tons/year

Carbon oxide

10,000

6,000

2,000

-

Sulfur oxide

124.4

84

-

-

Nitrogen oxide

34.2

21.9

23.6

-

Solid waste, thous. tons/year

830

-

-

0.03


The above table shows that thermal power plants have much bigger impacts on the environment than NPPs do.

 

Environmental costs incurred by NPP include expenses for protection and rational use of water resources (including payments to other enterprises for acceptance and treatment of waste waters), atmospheric air, environmental protection from adverse impact of production and consumption waste (including payment under contracts on transfer of waste to specialized organizations) and remediation of violated and contaminated lands.

 

NPP radiation impact on environment through its actual emissions and discharges of radioactive substances into atmospheric air and bodies of water is significantly below allowable values and does not exceed the minimum significant dose equal to 10 mSv per year. With such volume of emission of radionuclides to environment the radiation risk for population is guaranteed to be unconditionally acceptable (less than 10-6). It permits us to consider the actual level of emissions and discharges of NPPs as optimized.