Monitoring of discharges
The opeartion of nuclear facilities generally results in the discharge of radioactivity to the surrounding environment. Nuclear site operators are required to control the amount of radioactivity released into the environment. The national regulator puts controls on the amount and type of radioactivity released into the environment, including imposing upper limits on radioactive discharges.
The operators of the nuclear facilities continuously assess their discharges against the limits imposed by the national regulator and report the results to the regulator. The national regulator may independently perform assessments to validate these results. The national regulator also transmits the reported discharge data to the European Commission as required under Article 36 of the Euratom Treaty. To read the Commission Recommendation of 18th December 2003 on standardised information on radioactive airborne and liquid discharge into the environment from nuclear power reactors and reprocessing plants in normal operation, please click here.
The national regulators require nuclear facility operators to assess the potential radiological impact through regularly monitoring of the environment surrounding the nuclear site. In addition to this monitoring, national radioactivity monitoring programmes are carried out by state bodies such as the national regulators or national environmental laboratories. Environmental monitoring programmes may include measurement of general radiation levels (called ‘ambient dose’) as well as radioactivity levels in air, soil, vegetation, food and water.
The purposes of environmental monitoring programmes are to assess the radiation exposure to the public, confirm that control measures are working and provide first measurements in the event that an accidental release occurs. Data from national monitoring programmes are generally published by the national regulator or laboratory. Each country also submits some of its data to the European Commission as required under Article 36 of the Euratom Treaty.
Commission Recommendation 2000/473/Euratom of 8th June 2000 provides guidance to EU countris on monitoring levels of radioactivity in the environment for the purpose of assessing the exposure of the population as a whole.
The Drinking Water Directive provides a framework for controlling radioactivity in drinking water and the radiation dose received from the consumption of different forms of drinking water.
EU Legal requirements
Under the EURATOM Treaty, each Member State must establish the facilities necessary to carry out continuous monitoring of the level of radioactivity in the air, water and soil (Article 35). The European Commission has the right of access to national facilities so that it may verify their operation and efficiency. The reports of these verification visits are available on the European Commission’s website.
The data from the national environmental monitoring programmes must also be shared with the European Commission under Article 36 of the EURATOM Treaty. All of the data which has been collected since 1984 are stored in the Radioactivity Environmental Monitoring (REM) data bank and can be accessed on-line.
All EU countries operate national radiation-monitoring networks which provide real-time data for use in the event of an emergency. Data from these networks are shared among countries using the EURDEP system.