G-33 (Buildings) / G-31 (Products) Ionizing radiation indicator

Aspect G-33 (Buildings) / G-31 (Products) Ionizing radiation indicator
‘Ionizing radiation’ is an impact category in LCA related to the damage to human health and ecosystems that is linked to the emissions of radionuclides throughout a product or building life cycle. In the building sector, they can be linked to the use of nuclear power in an electricity mix. LCIA methodologies (such as Eco-indicator99, IMPACT 2002+, ReCiPe) currently calculate the ionizing radiation effect of a product’s or a building’s life cycle.Should an ionizing radiation indicator be used in an LCA of buildings?

related study objective

stand-alone LCA comparative assertion

related study phase

goal and scope definition inventory analysis (LCI) impact assessment (LCIA) interpretation reporting

relevant for

new buildings existing buildings building products screening LCA simplified LCA complete LCA
Provisions Adopt provision of the indicators mentioned in EN 15804 and EN 15978 standards. They do not include an ionizing radiation indicator, because so far no scientifically agreed method is available. Yet, if the goal and scope of the study mention the use of an LCIA indicator for ionizing radiation, then the indicator that is used for the assessment needs to be described.As a proxy indicator, EN 15804 and EN 15978 provide a flow indicator for quantifying the radioactive waste (expressed in m3). This indicator should be used, particularly in a national context that relies heavily on nuclear energy, to avoid shifting of burdens (if only the GWP indicator is used).
Rules from:
EN 15978:
11. Calculation of the environmental indicators

“Note: Indicators describing emission of ionizing radiation and their impact on human health and/or ecosystems in LCA level are intended for consideration during the revision of this European standard.

8 Life cycle impact assessment – calculating LCIA results
Provisions: 8.2 Calculation of LCIA results
ILCD Handbook: Recommendations for life cycle impact assessment in the European context
Existing methods for ionizing radiation that can be used at the midpoint and endpoint levels include [Frischknecht 2000]. ILCD states that “to our knowledge this is the only method that meets the general requirements for a quantitative approach. The fate and exposure model has been based on the ExternE work carried out by Dreicer et al., 1995, who described the routine 14 atmospheric and liquid discharges in the French nuclear fuel cycle. Data from UNSCEAR (1993) were used for three additional radionuclides.”

This guidance will be updated when EN 15804 and EN 15978 are revised.

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