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Radioactive environmental monitoring

All EU Member States are required to monitor radioactivity in the environment. The JRC is responsible for collecting this data in standardised form, where it is then validated and compiled into databases.

Monitoring artificial radioactivity in the environment is of utmost importance in order to verify that there is compliance with the Basic Safety Standards (Euratom/96/29 currently being revised) and to monitor tendencies over time. Under the Euratom Treaty, the JRC is responsible for collecting this information from the Member States Competent Authorities, and subsequently for validating and reporting it. It fulfils this mandate by means of the online REM database and by publishing annual monitoring reports.

The Radioactivity Environmental Monitoring (REM) database was set-up in 1988 to bring together and store in a harmonized way, environmental artificial radioactivity data produced in the aftermath of the Chernobyl accident. In this way the database has mainly two objectives:

  • to keep a historical record of the Chernobyl accident, for further scientific study
  • to store the radioactivity monitoring data of the EC Member States in order to prepare the annual monitoring report.
    The Member States are informed via this report of the radioactivity levels in the environment in the European Union. The report can be downloaded from the REM website.

The information held by the bank covers data from the twenty-seven EC Member States, as well as other participating European countries for both environmental samples and foodstuffs from 1984 onwards. Best represented are air, deposition, water, milk, meat and vegetables. The current total number of data records stored in REM exceeds 2 million. The data is sent by the national contact points of EU27 to the JRC by means of the “REM data submission tool”, which was designed and developed for this specific purpose. Data is also available online to external users. Whilst querying the bank, the user can download the selected dataset on his/her PC in various common data formats.

The EU Member States are obliged to carry out continuous monitoring of radioactivity in the air, water and soil, by virtue of Articles 35 and 36 of the Euratom Treaty concerning monitoring of radioactivity in the environment. Additional EU legislation lays down criteria for the quality of water intended for human consumption, and the maximum permitted levels of radioactive contamination of foodstuffs (Directive 98/83/EC and Regulation 733/2008/EC respectively).

At the request of the Directorate-General for Energy, the JRC organises regular inter-laboratory comparisons to assess the comparability of such monitoring data. These inter-laboratory comparisons also provide Member States' monitoring laboratories with a means to benchmark their performance and to improve their measurement capability.