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Now Available: Upgraded IAEA Database on Discharges of Radionuclides from Nuclear Installations


The IAEA database on Discharges of Radionuclides to the Atmosphere and the Aquatic Environment (DIRATA) was enhanced this year with additional data, such as radionuclide-specific annual discharges, and new user friendly features. (Photo: J. Burge/IAEA)

During normal operation, nuclear facilities such as nuclear power plants and research reactors discharge low level radioactive effluents to the environment. Regulations are in place to ensure these gases and liquids do not exceed dose limits to protect the public and the environment from the harmful effects of ionizing radiation. To strengthen information exchange and track trends, the IAEA has recently launched an improved version of its database — Discharges of Radionuclides to the Atmosphere and the Aquatic Environment (DIRATA).

DIRATA data include worldwide information on the discharge of radionuclides from nuclear power reactors and reprocessing facilities, submitted voluntarily by countries. Originally launched in 1999, this year the database was enhanced with additional data, such as radionuclide-specific annual discharges, and new user-friendly features, like an interactive global map of radionuclide discharges. DIRATA also includes data filters by year, country and facility site.

“International standards and controls on radionuclide discharges to the environment are very important so that the environment is protected against the effects of industrial pollutants, including radioactive ones,” said Joanne Brown, Head of the IAEA Assessment and Management of Environmental Releases Unit. “The DIRATA upgrade supports openness and transparency in the reporting of discharge data from nuclear facilities globally and making these data widely available.”

Public records on radioactive discharges support information sharing and allow scientific institutions to estimate the local, regional and global radiological impact of discharges on the public and the environment. “Operators, who are required to report discharge information periodically to regulatory bodies, can use these data to follow long term trends, while regulators can use it to support their assessments to verify that discharges comply with authorized limits and that the public is protected,” Brown added.

Seventeen countries were involved in a trial data collection cycle between June 2022 and April 2023 to assist the IAEA in developing and testing the proposed features. Based on their feedback, the IAEA simplified the data entry process, and increased the versatility of data visualization and data extraction. These improvements aim to encourage users to enter data regularly, and to make sure that viewing and extracting the data for reporting purposes are suitable for different users’ needs.

The database also contains historical discharge records collected by the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) and other national organizations, while future entries for EU countries will be made in cooperation with the European Commission (EC) via its Radioactive Discharges Database (RADD).

Michael Hübel, Head of the European Commission Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Unit, said, “Member States in the European Union will no longer need to provide reports to DIRATA as the database will be populated by EC RADD public data. This cooperation will avoid duplication of work and ensure consistency in reported data.”

Forming partnerships, taking action

The IAEA is considered the lead organization in developing a mechanism designed to translate the goal of partnerships and cooperation into action for the United Nation’s Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities in relation to radioactive substances. DIRATA was identified by the 45th IAEA General Conference as an important source of data to support the IAEA’s measures to strengthen international cooperation in nuclear, radiation, transport and waste safety.

DIRATA assists countries in maintaining and publishing records of discharges. These are used for verification of compliance of authorized practices for the control of public and environmental exposure, a requirement set out in IAEA safety standards, and can help them in their reporting within the framework of the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management.

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