Published on: March 21, 2023

Background radiation

Background radiation

Why in news? A recent study conducted by scientists at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) found that certain areas in Kerala are experiencing nearly three times more background radiation than previously assumed.


  • The radiation haven’t translated to an elevated health risk.
  • Radiation results from the disintegrating nucleus of an unstable element that can be drawn anywhere, including from inside human bodies to the constituents of matter
  • Gamma rays are a kind of radiation that can pass unobstructed through matter. Though extremely energetic, they are harmless unless present in large concentrated doses.
  • Especially around nuclear plants, gamma radiation levels are monitored as also the average quantity of radiation that plant workers are exposed to.

What is the maximum radiation exposure levels specified by IAEA?

  • The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) specification has also been adopted by India’s atomic energy establishment.
  • Public exposure should not exceed 1 milli-Sievert every year, those who work in plants or are by virtue of their occupation shouldn’t be exposed to over 30 milli-Sievert every year.
  • The present study found that average natural background levels of gamma radiation in India was 94 nGy/hr (nano Gray per hour) (or roughly 0.8 milli sievert/year).
  • The present study found that the levels in Kollam district (where Chavara is situated) were 9,562 nGy/hr, or about three times more. This computes a little more than what a worker in a nuclear plant is exposed to.

What is the main reason for higher radiation?

  • The higher radiation levels in Kollam are attributed to monazite sands that are high in thorium, and this for many years, is part of India’s long-term plan to sustainably produce nuclear fuel.
  • In southern India, because of the presence of granite and basaltic, volcanic rock has higher levels of radiation from uranium deposits.

Significance of the study

  • The study is significant, as it sheds light on the natural radiation levels in India, which has important implications for the country’s nuclear energy plans.