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Dangers arising from ionising radiation

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Dangers arising from ionising radiation

This Directive is designed to establish uniform safety standards to protect the health of workers and the general public against the dangers of ionising radiation.


Council Directive 96/29/Euratom of 13 May 1996 laying down basic safety standards for the protection of the health of workers and the general public against the dangers arising from ionising radiation.


Title I defines all of the technical terms to be found in the document.

The Directive applies to all practices which involve a risk from ionising radiation, either from an artificial source or from a natural source where natural radionuclides are processed because of their radioactive, fissile or fertile properties.

Each Member State must require the use of these practices to be reported, except in exceptional cases as specified in the Directive.

Each Member State must require prior authorisation to be obtained for practices that may involve a risk of ionising radiation, subject to the exceptions provided for in the Directive.

Prior authorisation is required for the disposal, recycling or reuse of radioactive substances or materials containing radioactive substances resulting from any practice subject to compulsory reporting or authorisation, unless the clearance levels established by the competent national authorities are complied with.

Before they are adopted or approved for the first time, Member States must ensure that all new classes or types of practices resulting in exposure to ionising radiation are justified on the basis that their economic, social or other benefits outweigh any adverse effects they may have on health.

Member States shall not permit radioactive substances to be deliberately added during the production of foodstuffs, toys, personal ornaments or cosmetics, neither shall they permit such goods to be imported or exported.

Where appropriate, efforts to ensure optimum radiological protection should include dose constraints.

Persons under the age of 18 may not be assigned to any work which would make them exposed workers.

The effective dose for exposed workers is limited to 100 mSv over a period of five consecutive years and must not exceed 50 mSv in any one year.

As soon as a pregnant woman or nursing mother informs an undertaking of her situation, she may not be assigned to work involving a significant risk of bodily radioactive contamination.

In exceptional circumstances, excluding radiological emergencies, to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, the competent authorities may, where specific operations so require, authorise a certain number of designated workers to exceed the individual occupational exposure limits.

Each Member State must take reasonable steps to ensure that the contribution made by each practice to the exposure of the population as a whole is kept as low as reasonably achievable in view of the economic and social factors. The total of all such contributions must be assessed regularly.

The Directive establishes exposure prevention measures:

  • the competent authorities must draw up appropriate guidelines for classifying controlled and supervised areas in a given situation, and undertakings must monitor working conditions closely within these areas;
  • Member States must require undertakings to provide information to workers who fall into either of the two distinct categories of exposed workers;
  • the undertaking is responsible for assessing and implementing arrangements for the radiological protection of exposed workers.

Exposure assessment involves monitoring the workplace (measuring external dose rates and indicating the nature and quality of the radiation in question, as well as measuring the air concentration and surface density of contaminating radioactive substances and indicating their nature and their physical and chemical states), monitoring the individual (systematic for the most exposed workers) and monitoring in the event of accidental or emergency exposure.

The medical surveillance of exposed workers is to be based on the principles that govern occupational medicine generally.

Each Member State must determine the procedure for appealing against findings and decisions made on the basis of the Directive.

Each Member State must:

  • establish one or more systems for carrying out inspections in order to enforce the provisions introduced under the Directive, as well as to initiate monitoring and intervene whenever necessary;
  • require workers to be given access, at their request, to the results of any individual monitoring relating to them;
  • require the necessary means for proper radiation protection to be made available to the units responsible.

Each Member State must create the conditions necessary to ensure optimum protection of the population and to apply the fundamental principles governing operational protection of the population.

Member States must ensure that consideration is given to the fact that radiological emergencies may occur in connection with practices carried out within or outside their territory and that these may affect them. Each Member State must ensure that appropriate action plans are drawn up at national or local level, and that these are tested at regular intervals.

If a Member State intends to adopt provisions which are stricter than those laid down by the Directive, it must inform the Commission and the other Member States.



Entry into force - Date of expiry

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Directive 96/29/Euratom



OJ L 159, 29.6.1996


Council Directive 2006/117/Euratom of 20 November 2006 on the supervision and control of shipments of radioactive waste and spent fuel [Official Journal L 337 of 5 December 2006]. The EU operates a system of prior authorisation for all shipments of radioactive waste in order to provide greater protection against the dangers of ionising radiation. This system was set up in 1992 and significantly amended in 2006.

Communication from the Commission of 23 February 1998 concerning the implementation of Council Directive 96/29/Euratom of 13 May 1996 laying down basic safety standards for the protection of the health of workers and the general public against the dangers arising from ionising radiation [COM(98) 87 final - Official Journal C 133 of 30 April 1998]. This Communication is a reference document designed to facilitate the transposition of Directive 96/29/Euratom into national law. It takes the form of comments on certain Articles of the Directive.

Last updated: 14.06.2007