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Environmental monitoring and assessment

Radioactive substances are used routinely in Scotland for medical diagnosis and treatment, research, energy generation and industrial processes. Under the Environmental Authorisations (Scotland) Regulations 2018 (EA(S)R), we regulate these activities including discharges to the environment. We are responsible for ensuring that public radiation doses as a result of authorised radioactive discharges do not exceed the public dose limit of 1mSv per year. The sievert (Sv) is a measure of radiation dose.

To do this, we collect data on the levels of radioactivity in food and the environment and on public habits that may result in exposure to radioactivity in the environment. 

This page contains more details about the data we collect, how it is collected and how it is used.

What is the Environmental Radioactivity Monitoring Programme?

Our environmental radioactivity monitoring programme is an annual programme to collect data on the levels of radioactivity in food and the environment. It is currently carried out on our behalf by Public Health England’s Centre for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards(CRCE), based in Glasgow.

The programme focuses on areas where concentrations of man-made radioactivity may be found, paying special attention to areas surrounding nuclear licensed sites, as well as taking samples to monitor non-nuclear industry. In addition, we undertake sampling across Scotland to determine typical background levels of radioactivity in food and the environment.

More than 1000 samples a year are analysed for a range of radionuclides.

Sample types include:

  • marine  foodstuffs such as fish and shellfish;
  • terrestrial foodstuffs  such as milk and locally grown food; and
  • environmental samples  such as seawater, seaweed, sediment, grass, soil, air and freshwater.

The results of the monitoring programme are used to undertake dose assessments to ensure public doses do not exceed the limit. The monitoring data and the results of the dose assessments are published annually in the Radioactivity in Food and the Environment (RIFE) report.

As a means of reviewing our monitoring programme and ensuring it continues to be fit for purpose we convene the Environmental Radioactivity Monitoring Task Team (ERMTT) biannually.  The team contains our own experts and representatives from the Scottish Government, the Food Standards Agencyand Public Health England.

What are habits surveys?

In order to undertake dose assessments, we need to collect data on public habits to gain an understanding of how members of the public may be exposed to radioactivity. 

We undertake surveys around each of Scotland’s nuclear licensed sites every five years. Researchers interview local residents, food retailers, fishing managers and farmers, observe habits at particular locations, such as beaches, and take measurements of radioactivity.

The research also takes into account the following factors:

  • angling, commercial fishing (netting and creeling) and mollusc collection
  • production, use and destination of local produce
  • types, seasonality and consumption of local wild foods
  • land use and soil types
  • occupancy near  the site
  • local food consumption rates
  • any extraordinary (unusual) practices

Our Radioactive Substances Reports page contains reports from habit surveys from across Scotland.

What is the Radioactivity in Food and the Environment (RIFE) report?

We work with the Environment Agency(EA), Food Standards Agency(FSA), Food Standards Scotland (FSS), Natural Resources Wales (NRW) and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency(NIEA) to produce the annual Radioactivity in Food and the Environment (RIFE) report. 

We are responsible for environmental protection and regulation in Scotland. This role is performed by the EA in England, NRW in Wales, and the NIEA in Northern Ireland. Food Standards Scotland (FSS) are responsible for food safety in Scotland while the Food Standards Agency has this responsibility for the rest of the UK.  

The RIFE report presents the results of the radiological monitoring programmes carried out by each organisation and the results of the public dose assessments.  The report focuses on key information that demonstrates both that food remains safe and that the public's exposure to radiation is within the legal limit.

Our Radioactive Substances Reports page contains the most recent RIFE reports.

The Radiological Dose Assessment Tool

The radiological dose assessment tool details an assessment methodology which may be used by SEPA to assess the impact of single or multiple releases to a single sewage treatment works. It may also be used to estimate doses from different departments as part of a single site dose assessment.

This tool is provided openly for use by the non-nuclear user community to provide a common assessment framework to assist with the dose assessment requirements of application.  Whilst it is provided freely, there are a series of conditions on its use and an exclusion of liability.

Conditions on Use and Exclusion of Liability

  1. SEPA provides this tool freely and in good faith, it is created and checked for computer viruses prior to upload into the SEPA website or transmission through email. However, it is the responsibility of the User to check the tool for viruses and to ensure the safe use on the user operating system.
  2. SEPA makes no guarantee for the calculated doses or acceptance of the assessment with your application.
  3. Whilst all reasonable effort has been made to ensure that the data is up to date, complete and accurate for the intended purpose, no warranty is given by SEPA in this regard. SEPA will not be responsible of the information supplied is misinterpreted or misused by the User
  4. The Tool & Guidance note remain the intellectual property of the appropriate party.
  5. The User accepts all risks from using this tool. SEPA will not accept any claim of damage relating to use of the tool in respect to damage to property/individuals or impact on an application. Specific guidance on your application is available from your local SEPA inspector. SEPA inspectors will not provide any support to any assessments made using the tool.



Date published

Radiological Dose Assessment Tool


31 May 2017

Initial guidance document


31 May 2017

Other monitoring and assessments

In addition to our regular monitoring programmes, we undertake ad-hoc monitoring and assessments in order to address any knowledge gaps or specific areas of concern.

Our Radioactive Substances Reports page contains details of other monitoring and assessments we have undertaken.

Contact us

For more information on how we monitor and assess levels of radioactivity, please contact us.