Environmental radioactivity

The Isle of Man Government Laboratory carries out its own independent monitoring of environmental radioactivity on the Island, maintaining fixed monitoring stations at several locations on the Island, and also monitors radioactivity levels in food. Since 1989 the Laboratory has issued Annual Reports dealing exclusively with radioactivity in foodstuffs and the general environment. The monitoring results have shown no evidence of hazardous levels of radioactivity on the Island.

Sellafield pollution

The Isle of Man is located in the middle of the Irish Sea some 55km (34 miles) from the Sellafield nuclear fuel reprocessing plant. Seafood fished in our waters can contain traces of radionuclides associated with effluent discharges from Sellafield to the Irish Sea, therefore these are monitored regularly to confirm that they remain well below maximum safe limits.

Chernobyl fallout

The Isle of Man, like other areas of the British Isles, received some radioactive fallout from the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power station accident in the Ukraine. Unfortunate weather conditions comprising an easterly wind together with heavy rainfall deposited radioactivity on hill land, resulting in the contamination of sheep and the necessity for legal controls on sheep farming. The Government Laboratory undertook regular live-monitoring tests of sheep, with the result that as levels of radiocaesium, the major radioactive contaminant, fell to below significant levels the restrictions gradually could be removed from hill land, all now being clear.

Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami – Fallout from damaged nuclear power station

The scale of the nuclear disaster in Japan caused by the earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, in terms of releases from the nuclear power stations in Fukushima, was not as great as Chernobyl. Radioactive material released into the atmosphere is dispersed around the world, and indeed was detected here on the Isle of Man, but with only very low levels of radioactivity in the form of Iodine-131 found in our rainwater for a few days a fortnight after the disaster.  Although it was not expected to give rise to sufficient fallout here to be of concern for human health or to have an adverse effect on water or food production, Government Laboratory staff ensured that they maintained awareness of events as they developed, and kept a close watch on our own environmental monitoring data, and that from neighbouring countries. The amount found in the rainwater was less than 1/100th of the lowest level considered to give cause for concern for human health, and nothing was detectable in milk.

Annual reports

The Government Laboratory publishes an annual report giving the results of radioactivity monitoring on the Island. The latest Report shows that the trace contamination of lobsters by Technetium-99 released from Sellafield in the late 1990s has effectively disappeared from lobsters, with levels now similar to the background levels prior to that discharge, and all other foods and environmental samples have remained low in radioactivity. The most recent Report is available to view or download from this page, as is the report for 2011 when the fallout from Fukushima was detected.

Other radioactivity matters

Primarily in view of the proximity of the Sellafield nuclear fuel reprocessing plant and the potential disadvantage to the Isle of Man in the event of any contamination of the environment arising from that site, we maintain a constant watching brief on activities and developments in the UK nuclear industry in general and Sellafield in particular. Through our contacts and knowledge we are able to provide scientific advice and interpretation to the Isle of Man Government, while preparing or facilitating appropriate responses to relevant UK consultations and proposals.

Dr Paul McKenna

Senior Scientific Officer

The Government Laboratory

Ballakermeen Road



Telephone:+44 1624 642250

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