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, Norway, Montenegro and the Republic of North Macedonia take part, and they must promptly notify the Commission if they decide to take 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), which makes radiological monitoring data from 38 European countries available to each other. All EU Countries plus Iceland, Norway, Russia, Switzerland, Turkey, the Republic of North Macedonia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Serbia and Belarus participate in EURDEP. EURDEP data is usually provided at least once a day. Data is delivered at least once every hour during an emergency. Public radiation monitoring data is made available at the public EURDEP site.
The United Kingdom withdrew from the European Union as of 1 February 2020. The Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and European Atomic Energy Community (OJ C 384I, 12.11.2019, p. 1) entered into force on the same date.
It provides for a transition period which will end on 31 December 2020. During the transition period, Union law, with a few exceptions, is applicable to and in the United Kingdom.
For the purposes of Union law applicable to it during the transition period, the United Kingdom is treated as an EU Member State, but will not participate in EU decision-making and decision-shaping.
Notice to stakeholders on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom and the Euratom acquis (updated on 25 September 2018)