Environmental radioactivity

What is environmental radioactivity?


Our environmental surroundings contain numerous radioactive materials, which may be due to natural processes or may result from human activities, such as the explosions of nuclear weapons undertaken during the middle part of the 20th century. 

In most cases the health effects of anthropogenic (human-derived) radioactive materials are very small, nevertheless it is important to fully understand the origins, behaviour and potential impacts of all types of radioactivity in our environment. ANSTO’s Institute for Environmental Research has a unique capability to measure all types of environmental radioactivity using a range of techniques.

Sites contaminated with radioactivity

There has been considerable public concern about the impacts of radioactive contamination in the environment. ANSTO scientists are contributing to understanding the environmental impacts of these events. Specific examples include participation of ANSTO scientists in: 

  • an international study of the impacts of releases from the Fukushima reactor accident into the marine environment




  • detailed studies of the Little Forest Legacy Site located near the Lucas Heights Research facility in order to understand the status of the site and inform remediation options





  • long-term evaluation of the impacts of the atomic tests undertaken during the 1950’s in the Australian outback, particularly the Maralinga site in South Australia.





Atmospheric Radioactivity


As well as specific sites contaminated with radioactivity, ANSTO scientists are also participating in studies of the dispersion of radionuclides through local and global atmospheric circulation. Specific topics include:


Radon Analytical Laboratory




Atmospheric Mixing and Pollution Transport Research



Global Atmospheric Composition Monitoring at Cape Grim