Radioactive substances

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We work with a wide range of agencies and organisations on a national and international level to ensure the safety of radioactive waste management and environmental radioactive protection.

From their use in the diagnosis and treatment of disease to their use in energy generation and nuclear weapons, radioactive substances are used widely in industry, medicine and research in Scotland.

While the use of radioactive substances can be very beneficial, exposure to radiation has the potential to cause damage to living tissue and thus increase the risk of cancer.

We are responsible for ensuring that the keeping and use of radioactive substances and the accumulation and disposal of radioactive wastes is safely regulated and monitored to minimise the impact of radioactive wastes on the environment.

A key part of our work is to ensure that radiation doses from all man-made radioactive substances in food and the environment remain below statutory limits, which we ensure through our comprehensive environmental monitoring programme.

Under the contaminated land regime, we are responsible for dealing with land that is causing, or likely to cause, unacceptable radiation exposures as a result of radioactive contamination from historic activities. Where no voluntary action is being taken to clean up land that is causing a problem, we can formally identify areas of land as contaminated, which then allows us to require the polluter to remediate the land or pay the costs of doing so.

In addition, we are responsible for ensuring the maintenance of the Radioactive Incident Monitoring Network (RIMNET) in Scotland, which detects levels of radioactivity in the environment across the UK.

This section of our website contains more details about how and why we monitor radioactive activity in Scotland and ensure that it is managed safely.