Monitoring and Assessment

The principal aims of the EPA’s radioactivity monitoring programme are:

  • To assess the levels of radioactivity in the environment to which the Irish population is exposed;
  • To study trends and establish the geographical distribution of contaminating radionuclides to improve our understanding of the long-term behaviour of artificial radioactivity in the food chain and in the environment; and
  • To ensure that any increases in radiation levels resulting from an accidental release of radioactivity to the environment are detected and assessed rapidly

Sources of artificial radioactivity in the environment

The most significant source of artificial radioactivity in the Irish marine environment is the discharge of low level liquid radioactive waste from the Sellafield Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing Plant on the north-west coast of England.

Artificial radioactivity is also present in the environment from global fallout from atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons in the 1950s and 1960s, and from releases from past nuclear accidents such as that at Chernobyl and Fukushima.

Monitoring

We carry out a programme of round-the-clock measurements from our permanent monitoring network and a programme of sampling followed by laboratory testing. We take and test around 2000 samples every year. Most samples are taken from fixed locations throughout Ireland. Fish and shellfish are collected from the main fishing ports.

Assessment

The results of monitoring are used to assess the exposure of the Irish population to radioactivity by combining monitoring results with food consumption rates and other data on habits.  These assessments are carried out periodically and published in Radioactivity Monitoring of the Irish Environment.

Research

Together with monitoring and assessment, research continues to play an important role in underpinning delivery of the EPA’s mandate to advise the Government and the public on a range of matters relating to radiation protection.