England & Wales Environment Agency

The Environment Agency (EA) has a duty to ensure that the activities that it authorises do not cause an adverse effect on Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) for sensitive habitats or Special Protection Areas (SPAs) for birds.  The EA is the regulatory body responsible for authorising discharges of radioactive waste to the environment under the Radioactive Substances Act 1993, and therefore needs to ensure that the discharges do not cause adverse effects to the integrity of SACs and SPAs.

The EA, together with Natural England and the Countryside Council for Wales have concluded that 40 µGy/h is the threshold below which adverse effects on the integrity of SACs and SPAs will not occur.  Environmental radiological assessments are completed to ensure that discharges do not cause this dose rate threshold to be exceeded.  Full details of the assessment methodology are provided in the Habitats Assessment for Radioactive Substances report [1] and are summarised as follows:

This methodology is a precautionary approach and is used to determine whether new permits or variations to existing permits are acceptable.  In addition, all existing discharges that might affect a SAC or SPA have been assessed using this methodology [1].  Out of the 277 sites assessed, two exceeded the dose rate threshold: the Ribble and Alt Estuaries SPA (520 µGy/h) and the Drigg Coast SAC (41 µGy/h).  Additional assessments were completed for these sites and the results reported in the Impact of Radioactive Substances on Ribble and Alt Estuarine Habitats report [6], and are summarised as follows:

The EA also complete work to improve environmental radiological assessments, such as assessing the contribution that naturally occurring radionuclides make to the radiation dose received by non-human species [7], investigating the effect of radiation on fish, soil fauna and aquatic organisms [8, 9, 10], and improving calculations for the dose rates to non-human biota from radon daughters [11].


1    R Allott, D Copplestone, P Merrill and S Oliver, Habitats assessment for radioactive substances (2009)

2    D Copplestone, S Bielby, SR Jones, D Patton, P Daniel and I Gize, Impact assessment of ionising radiation on wildlife (2001)
Spreadsheets can be downloaded from EA R&D128

3    D Copplestone, M D Wood, S Bielby, S R Jones, J Vives and N A Beresford, Habitats regulations for Stage 3 assessments: radioactive substances authorisations (2003)

4    R Allott and D Copplestone, SCHO0309BPMN-e-e.pdfImpact of radioactive substances on Ribble and Alt estuarine habitats (2009)

5    R W Allott, B Lambers and J G Titley, Initial radiological assessment methodology - part 1 user report (2006)

6    B Lambers and M C Thorne, Initial radiological assessment methodology - part 2 methods and input data (2006)

7    N A Beresford, J D Appleton, C L Barnett, M W Bescoby, N Breward, D G Jones, A C MacKenzie, C Scheib, H Thørring and M D  Wood, Assessment of naturally occurring radionuclides in England and Wales (2007)

8    J F Knowles, An investigation into the effects of chronic radiation on fish (2002)

9    J L Hingston, J F Knowles, P J  Walker, M D Wood and D Copplestone, Effects of ionising radiation on soil fauna (2004)

10   W J Reynolds, K S Leonard, B P Lyons, F Goodsir, P Smedley, J T Barry and J F Knowles, Radiation experiments on aquatic organisms (2007)      http://publications.environment-agency.gov.uk/pdf/SCHO0605BJCZ-e-e.pdf

11   J Vives i Batlle, S R Jones and D Copplestone, Dosimetric approach for biota exposure to inhaled radon daughters (2008)      http://publications.environment-agency.gov.uk/pdf/SCHO0908BOPA-e-e.pdf


12   Wood M.D., Knowles J.D., Whittaker J.H., Copplestone D., Malcolm, H. M., Bielby S. Developing experimental protocols for chronic irradiation studies on wildlife. R&D Technical Report P3-101/SP2. Environment Agency (2003)

Page created by Laura Newsome (EA)