Exposure to ionising radiation can be a serious risk to human health. It can result from medical and industrial practices, effluents from nuclear installations, fallout from nuclear weapon testing, nuclear accidents and from natural sources. The EU seeks to guard against unsafe levels of exposure.
Basic safety standards
The EU has a set of basic safety standards. These rules protect workers – in particular medical staff and those working in places where there is radiation – the public and patients. These standards also include emergency procedures that were strengthened following the Fukushima nuclear accident.
The Basic Safety Standards ensure:
- protection of workers such as medical staff and those working in places with indoor radon or in activities involving naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM)
- protection of the public for example from radon in buildings
- protection of medical patients for example by avoiding accidents in radio-diagnosis and radiotherapy
- strengthened requirements on emergency preparedness and response incorporating lessons learnt from the Fukushima accident
The safety rules have been developed in consultation with a group of radioactivity scientific experts.
The Directive entered into force on 6 February 2014 and EU countries must ensure compliance by 6 February 2018. In the meantime, all legislative acts that have been merged in this Directive remain in force until 6 February 2018.
Emergency preparedness and response
In the event of a nuclear accident, the fast and accurate sharing of information can make a huge difference in ensuring people's safety. Under the Euratom Treaty, the European Commission is responsible for exchanging information quickly. It does this through:
- The European Community Urgent Radiological Information Exchange (ECURIE) which was set up to facilitate early notification and information exchange in the event of a radiological or nuclear emergency. All EU countries plus Switzerland take part and they must promptly notify the Commission if they decide to take counter measures in order to protect their populations in the event of an emergency. The Commission must then make this notification available to all other members.
- The European Radiological Data Exchange Platform (EURDEP) makes radiological monitoring data from 33 European countries available to each other. All EU Countries plus Iceland, Norway, Russia, Switzerland, and Turkey participate in EURDEP. EURDEP data is usually provided at least once a day. Data is delivered at least once every two hours during an emergency.
Radioactivity publications and scientific seminars
The European Commission has issued publications since 1976 in order to provide important information on ionising radiation and radiation protection.
The Commission also organises an annual scientific seminar on specific radiation protection topics. The seminar's proceedings are published as part of the Radiation Protection Series.