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Liquid Discharges from Nuclear Installations in 2021

Executive Summary

Data are available on ODIMS via:

This report presents the 2021 data for liquid radioactive discharges from nuclear installations along with temporal trends for the period 1989 - 2021. 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 2021 were 0.16 TBq which is 6% higher than the previous year. Annual alpha discharges have fluctuated in the range 0.15 – 0.3 TBq since 2007, and in 2021 were about 5% of the 1989 peak. The small increase in 2021 is due to a 15% increase in total alpha discharges from the nuclear decommissioning sub-sector.

Discharges of total beta activity (excluding tritium) from all nuclear installations have decreased markedly over the years and in 2021 were only 1.5% of what they were in 1989. In 2021 total beta discharges increased slightly to about 14 TBq which is around 8% higher than the previous year but around the same as in 2020.

The total discharge of tritium in 2020 of about 13,000 TBq is around 7% lower than the previous year and about 38% 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 Sellafield) and fluctuate in accordance with spent fuel reprocessing rates.

In 2021 the discharges of total alpha and total beta (excluding tritium) radionuclides increased slightly from 2020 values back to a similar level seen in 2019, however they were still the second lowest on record. It is possible that the slight increase is due to the full resumption of activities at nuclear sites that may have been postponed during the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic.

Location of Nuclear Facilities in OSPAR countries discharging directly or indirectly to the OSPAR maritime area in 2021. Available via