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Approval of laboratories

Laboratory certifications for environmental radioactivity measurements under Article R. 1333-11 of the Public Health Code are issued by decision of the Nuclear Safety Authority.

To obtain approval, laboratories are therefore required to:

  • Submit documents to the ASN including an application for the certifications sought and showing that its organizational structure and practices comply with NF EN ISO / IEC 17025 standard which sets out the general requirements applicable to laboratories. ;
  • pass the inter-laboratory comparison tests organized periodically by the IRSN.

The certifications are therefore issued by decision of the ASN, on the recommendation of a joint certification commission that bases its findings both on the certification application documents submitted by the laboratory and on the results obtained in the inter-laboratory comparison tests (EIL) conducted by IRSN. Certifications are granted for a maximum of five years.

Since 2003, some 60 laboratories including one laboratory outside France, have been involved in the approval process for environmental radioactivity measurements.

The laboratories certified within the framework of the national network are:

  • Laboratories of nuclear operators who carry out environmental monitoring (compulsory by law) around their facilities in accordance with the regulatory provisions;
  • Institute laboratories or public agencies that carry out radioactivity control measures for sanitary control purposes;
  • University laboratories that can carry out radioactivity measurements on behalf of nuclear operators or local authorities (sanitary control of drinking water);
  • Private laboratories involved in the radiological control of drinking water;
  • Laboratories of environmental protection non-profit organizations which carry out independent measures and counter-investigations for themselves or for local and regional authorities ;
  • Foreign laboratories, most often public laboratories working in sectors related to sanitary protection of populations.

There are currently 70 laboratories sharing a total of 1018 valid licenses, which feed data into the RNM website.

To get a list of laboratories certified by the ASN for the environment radioactivity measurements, please visit the ASN website.

WHAT IS AN INTERLABORATORY COMPARISON TEST?

The purpose of the inter-laboratory comparison tests organized by the IRSN is to test the technical skills of the laboratories. These are proficiency tests which consist in comparing the results measured by the laboratories for identical samples, to an assigned value.

The IRSN tests concern the measurements of alpha-, beta- and gamma-emitting radionuclides, or radionuclides in the natural chains of uranium and thorium. The IRSN tasks include preparing and delivering the samples to the laboratory applicants taking part in the tests, determining the assigned values and conducting statistical analysis of laboratory results.

The samples prepared by the IRSN are distributed simultaneously to the participating laboratories to be measured during the same time lapse. The batch of samples provided by the IRSN must be sufficiently homogeneous in terms of contained radioactivity so that no discrepancy in results can be attributed to a lack of homogeneity.

The number of participants in each test ranges from 15 to 70 laboratories, and includes several foreign laboratories from outside France.

The IRSN has been organizing this kind of test for 40 years, with 4 to 5 tests/year within the RNM framework. The IRSN has been certified by the French Accreditation Committee (COFRAC) since 2006 to hold these specific inter-laboratory comparison tests.

The different types of tests proposed within the framework of the national measurement network are programmed per type of environmental matrix and per category of radioactive measurements, according to the laboratory approval grid defined in the appendix to decision no. 2015-DC-0500 of the Nuclear Safety Authority dated Feb. 26, 2015.

It is thus possible to identify:

  • 7 families of environmental matrices: waters, soils, biological matrices, aerosols, gases, ambient gamma radiation and foodstuffs ;
  • 17 categories of radioactive measurements.

The inter-laboratory comparison tests enable the participating laboratories to ensure the quality of the analytic methods implemented, to provide the accrediting organizations with the information needed to determine whether the laboratories have expertise in the analytic processes, and to obtain certification in connection with the regulations.

CILEI - THE IRSN ENVIRONMENTAL INTER-LABORATORY COMPARISON WEBSITE

Within the framework of the inter-laboratory tests organization for the radioactivity measurements in the environment and in foodstuff, the IRSN has developed a website dedicated to the exchange of information among participants and IRSN:  https://cilei.irsn.fr/

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