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Liquid discharges from nuclear installations in 2020

Executive Summary

Data are available on ODIMS via:

This report presents the 2020 data for liquid radioactive discharges from nuclear installations along with
temporal trends for the period 1989 - 2020. On this basis, an assessment has been made for the discharges
from the nuclear sector which comprises the following sub-sectors;

  • nuclear power stations;
  • nuclear fuel reprocessing plants;
  • nuclear fuel fabrication and enrichment plants;
  • research and development facilities;
  • decommissioning facilities and management of legacy radioactive wastes activities.

Full Report

Discharges are reported as total alpha, tritium and total beta (excluding tritium) in terabecquerels per year (TBq/y).

The total discharges of alpha activity from all nuclear installations in 2020 were 0.15 TBq which is 21% lower than the previous year and the lowest value reported since widespread reporting began by the OSPAR contracting parties. Total alpha discharges are now 48% lower than they were in 2016. Annual alpha discharges have fluctuated in the range 0.15 – 0.3 TBq since 2007, and in 2020 were about 5% of the 1989 peak.

Discharges of total beta activity (excluding tritium) from all nuclear installations have decreased markedly over the years and are now only 1.4% of what they were in 1989. In 2020 total beta discharges were about 13 TBq which is around 4% lower than the previous year and is again the lowest value reported since widespread reporting began.

The total discharge of tritium in 2020 of about 14,000 TBq is around 12% lower than the previous year and about 33% lower than the peak seen in 2004. Discharges of tritium are dominated by those from the reprocessing sector (with 81% of the total from Cap de la Hague) and fluctuate in accordance with spent fuel reprocessing rates.

The overall trend in 2020 is a continuing decrease in almost all reported discharges which reflects the longer-term trend. It is possible that the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic has had some effect on the nuclear industry and caused discharges to reduce as non-essential work at some sites, particularly in the decommissioning sub-sector may have been cancelled or postponed.

Location of Nuclear Facilities in OSPAR countries discharging directly or indirectly to the OSPAR maritime area in 2020. Available via