The EPA operates a network of radiation monitoring stations across Ireland for use in the event of an emergency.
The radiation monitoring stations consist of air samplers and instruments to measure the gamma dose rate.
The EPA operates a network of 15 permanent radiation monitoring stations across Ireland, which constantly monitor radiation levels in the environment. Here you will find information on this network and how we would use it in the event of a nuclear accident overseas.
Radiation monitoring stations
This 24-hour monitoring ensures that we are always aware of the levels of naturally occurring radiation in the environment but also that we will get the first measurements in the event of a radioactive 'cloud' reaching Ireland.
Met Éireann, local authorities, third level institutes and the Defence Forces all help support the work of the permanent radiation monitoring stations.
In case of an accident
If elevated radiation levels are detected, an alarm system is automatically triggered. The EPA responds to alarm activations and assesses what action is required.
The national network of round-the-clock radiation monitoring stations plays an important role in the National Emergency Plan for Nuclear Accidents.
In a nuclear emergency, the rapid collection and analysis of information is vital. As part of the National Emergency Plan, the EPA, with support from Met Éireann, local authorities and the Defence Forces operates a national network of round-the-clock radiation monitoring stations.
Triggering the alarm
In the event of nuclear incident abroad, the alert would first be raised through the European Commission and the IAEA international notification systems. The Irish radiation monitoring network would then provide the first measurements of any radioactive cloud that reached Ireland. In addition, Ireland has a treaty with the UK so that Ireland will be informed directly in the event of a nuclear accident in the UK.
The location of the monitoring stations
Ireland has 15 online gamma dose rate radiation monitors and 5 online aerosol monitors at stations situated across the country.
How the data is collected
The radiation monitoring stations continuously measure the gamma dose rate. Data from the gamma dose rate monitors is continuously fed back to a central computer at the EPA. If elevated radiation levels are detected, an alarm system is automatically triggered.
In addition, the EPA operates a network of air sampling systems to supplement the gamma dose rate measurements. These systems continuously sample particles suspended in the air. In the case of a nuclear emergency these air filters will be analysed to ascertain the quantity and type of radionuclides present in the plume.
Occasionally, gamma radiation levels can increase temporarily due to a phenomenon called radon washout. This occurs when rain collects radon from the air and deposits it on the ground.
It results in a small - but detectable - increase in the gamma dose rate measurement, which usually lasts no more than few hours. This increase poses no health risk but may trigger the EPA alarm system – if this happens, the EPA duty officer examines the data to confirm whether or not the gamma dose rate has been caused by radon washout.
In the event of a nuclear emergency, foodstuffs, livestock, soil, vegetation, water and other environmental samples will be monitored and analysed in the days and weeks after the accident.
For more information on post-emergency monitoring, see our FAQS section about the National Plan.
Working together to protect Ireland
Various other agencies help operate the continuous monitoring network: