Why is it monitored?
Industrial and human activities involving radioactive substances are likely to result in radioactive releases to the environment, either as part of their normal operation or as a result of operational incidents or accidents. These activities are monitored via automatic devices or via samplings, to make measurements of the environmental radioactivity.
Briefly, the radiological measurements carried out in the environment in France by the different stakeholders of the monitoring, respond to three main and complementary objectives:
- Objective 1: To make sure that the activities involving radioactive substances are carried out in compliance with current regulations.
Releases of radioactive substances into the air or into aquatic and marine environments are tolerated from nuclear activities under specific controlled conditions. These authorizations are issued by the competent regulatory authorities after preliminary assessment of the foreseeable impact on the environment and population health.
- Objective 2: To detect rapidly any increase in environmental
This involves the detection of any accidental release of radioactive substances into the air, water or soil, even when the discharge takes place outside the national territory (e.g. Chernobyl or Fukushima accidents).
- Objective 3: Ensure that the territory remains in a satisfactory radiological condition
The regular monitoring over time of the evolution of the environmental radioactivity enables to make sure that, despite the persistence of the radioactivity related to the old pollutions (polluted sites, atmospheric fallout due to the nuclear weapons tests and the Chernobyl accident), the observed levels do not expose people and ecosystems to excessive radioactivity.
The study and monitoring of environmental radioactivity levels are essential to assess how radioactive substances impact human health, the environment and resources of economic interest (such as water and agriculture).