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Radioactivity in the environment

EU countries are required to monitor levels of radioactivity in air, water, soil and foodstuffs.

The European Commission carries out verifications of the monitoring arrangements. These verifications can be extended to cover also radioactive discharges from nuclear or medical facilities, as well as the provisions in place for radioactivity monitoring in the event of a radiation emergency. Verification findings and recommendations are made publicly available.

Verification targets are selected according to their radiological significance or public interest; the visits are announced to the country concerned at least 3 months in advance. However, in the event of a significant radioactive release, or other radiation event arousing public interest, the Commission can carry out a verification visit on short notice. Practical arrangements for the verification visits are described in Communication 2006/C 155/02.

Recommendation 2000/473/Euratom provides guidance to EU countries on monitoring the levels of radioactivity in the environment for the purpose of assessing the exposure of the population as a whole. The Commission maintains a database of environmental radioactivity monitoring data. On the basis of this data collection, and in cooperation with its Joint Research Centre, the Commission publishes reports on environmental radioactivity in the EU.

Additionally, the JRC Radioactivity Environmental Monitoring group, set up in 1988, facilitates online exchange of radioactivity information among EU countries and the Commission through the European Radiological Data Exchange Platform (EURDEP).

Releases of radioactive effluents

Nuclear sites, in particular nuclear power stations and reprocessing sites, are entitled to discharge airborne and liquid radioactive effluents into the environment on condition that these discharge operations abide by conditions and restrictions set in their operating licenses.

The radioactivity of discharges is measured, and the results must be communicated to the European Commission as this helps it to evaluate the exposure of populations and compare the levels of radioactivity in different EU countries. Between 1995 and 2008, the Commission published a series of publications on the release of radioactive effluents.

Recommendation 2004/2/Euratom provides guidance to EU countries on the reporting of discharges of radioactive nuclides. The Commission's Radioactive Discharges Database (RADD) compiles the information provided by EU countries. In order to provide a useful time span, the database also contains historical information complied from 1995 onwards.

EU Member States experts’ meetings (Euratom Article 35 – 36)

The Commission organises regular meetings of EU Member States’ experts on monitoring radioactivity in the environment and in gaseous and liquid discharges. The agenda, minutes and presentations of each meeting are accessible in the links listed below.


  • Commission Recommendation of 8 June 2000 on the application of Article 36 of the Euratom Treaty concerning the monitoring of the levels of radioactivity in the environment for the purpose of assessing the exposure of the population as a whole (notified under document number C(2000)1299) (2000/473/Euratom)
  • Commission Recommendation of 18 December 2003 on standardised information on radioactive airborne and liquid discharges into the environment from nuclear power reactors and reprocessing plants in normal operation (notified under document number C(2003) 4832) (Recommendation 2004/2/Euratom)

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