Radiation monitoring

The EPA carries out rigorous and continuous testing to ensure that environmental radiation remains within internationally agreed and legal safety limits. These tests ensure that we are quickly aware of any change in environmental radiation in Ireland, and able to provide you with any health warnings and protection advice necessary.

The radiation doses received as a result of artificial radioactivity are small compared with those received as a result of natural radiation and do not constitute a significant health risk.

Monitoring and sampling

The key elements of the EPA radiation monitoring programme are:

  • Assessment of ambient radioactivity based on measurements of radioactivity in air and of external gamma dose rate (gamma radiation emitted from natural and man-made radioactivity present in the environment) from a network of permanent monitoring stations located throughout the country. The permanent monitoring network would also provide the first indication of abnormal levels of radioactivity resulting from a nuclear emergency.
  • Assessment of levels of radioactivity in a variety of food products and drinking water
  • Assessment of levels of radioactivity in the Irish marine environment based on seawater, sediment, seaweed, fish and shellfish

The programme combines round-the-clock measurements from the 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. This provides a baseline against which measurements can be compared and would enable elevated radiation values to be identified quickly.

Results of the monitoring programme can be seen in our latest report Radioactivity Monitoring of the Irish Environment.  

Results of seawater sampling from various locations around the Irish coast for the years 2014 7 2015 

Europe

A similar routine of sampling and testing of the environment is carried out in every EU country. The results are compiled and are available to view online as EU reports on environmental radioactivity.

In addition, gamma dose rate data from our permanent monitoring network is transferred every hour to a European Commission database. Similar data from all EU countries is collated and can be viewed online

Article 35 of the Euratom Treaty requires Member States to establish the facilities necessary to carry out continuous monitoring of the levels of radioactivity in the air, water and soil and to ensure compliance with the Basic Safety Standards.  Furthermore Article 35 stipulates that “The Commission shall have the right of access to such facilities; it may verify their operation and efficiency.”  In accordance with Article 35, the Commission carries out a programme of Verification visits in Member States.  The main purpose of such visits is to provide an independent assessment of the adequacy of monitoring facilities for environmental radioactivity. 

A report of the Commission's most recent Verification visit to Ireland can be found on the European Commission website.