In the absence of nuclear accidents with a major release of radioactive material to the environment, the annual dose received by the public at large is almost completely due to exposure to natural radioactivity. In order to provide the public with a more balanced view of the annual dose that it may receive from artificial environmental radioactivity, the JRC collects and validates environmental radioactivity data from natural origin with the view to publish it as a European Atlas of Natural Radiation (EANR).
The work for the Atlas started with mapping indoor radon in a harmonised European-wide map whilst respecting data privacy issues, which results in a map including data from 22 countries with data collection still ongoing. In parallel a “European geogenic radon map”, which should show “what earth delivers” in terms of potential radon hazard is in an advanced planning phase and a first version is planned for the end of 2012.
Although radon is considered to be the main contributor to population dose by natural radiation in the most cases, also other components will be included in the EANR. First maps of annual dose by cosmic radiation have already been compiled. For other planned maps like terrestrial gamma dose rate, which could be based on existing REM data (EURDEP), geochemical maps (e.g. radium, thorium, uranium isotopes, lead-210, polonium-210) and ground- and surface water maps the rationale, feasibility, possible methods and availability of data still have to be discussed and evaluated. A long term goal of the EANR is to combine all produced maps and collected data and calculate a total dose for the population caused by natural radioactivity in a defined grid.