In daily life, we are exposed to various sources of ionising radiation, for example natural radiation sources, medical applications, industrial practices, effluents from nuclear installations, fallout from nuclear weapon testing, and the impact of nuclear accidents. Exposure to increased levels of ionising radiation can be harmful to human health. The Euratom Community therefore seeks to protect its citizens against the dangers of increased levels of exposure.
Basic safety standards
The Euratom Community has established a set of basic safety standards to protect workers, members of the public, and patients against the dangers arising from ionising radiation. These standards also include emergency procedures that were strengthened following the Fukushima nuclear accident.
The Basic Safety Standards ensure:
- protection of workers exposed to ionising radiation, such as workers in the nuclear industry and other industrial applications, medical staff and those working in places with indoor radon or in activities involving naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM)
- protection of members 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 basic safety standards are developed in consultation with a group of scientific experts in public health and in particular in radiation protection.
The latest Basic Safety Standards Directive entered into force on 6 February 2014 and EU countries must ensure compliance by 6 February 2018.
Emergency preparedness and response
In the event of a nuclear accident, 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 and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia take part, and they must promptly notify the Commission if they decide to take counter measures in order to protect their population 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, Turkey, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Belarus 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.
Radiation protection publications and scientific seminars
The European Commission has issued publications since 1976 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.