Environmental sampling and analysis

In addition to on-line monitoring, some 400 samples are taken annually in and around CERN sites to monitor the Organization's impact on the local environment. The samples are taken mainly for radiological analysis, but also for physicochemical analysis of effluents discharged into the watercourses surrounding CERN sites. 

Air monitoring

A fraction of the aerosols emitted by the accelerator and experiment ventilation stacks are continuously collected on filters by ventilation aerosol samplers for later radiological analyses in CERN’s environmental laboratory (alpha/beta counting and gamma spectrometry). In parallel, analysis of filters from environmental aerosol samplers, located on and near CERN sites, are used to prove that emissions remain negligible. Specific ventilation monitoring stations are equipped with charcoal samples for analysing volatile elements, such as Iodine, in the laboratory (gamma spectrometry). Some stations are also equipped with bubblers for tritium analyses (liquid scintillation counting).

Effluent water & receiving watercourses

Radiological analyses (alpha/beta counting, gamma spectrometry and tritium liquid scintillation counting) are carried out on monthly representative water samples, that are taken in the CERN water monitoring stations. Detailed physicochemical analyses are carried out on a monthly (instantaneous sampling) and quarterly (24 hours sampling) basis, from the main effluents that are discharged into watercourses. Once a year, the watercourses neighbouring CERN are also sampled for radiological and physicochemical analyses to assess the impact of CERN's effluents on the local watercourses.

Prior to discharge, CERN Departments shall ensure that the HSE Unit has granted the permission to release a definite volume of water. Please fill in a request prior to discharge at the following address: SNOW.

Laboratory equipment

Both radiological and physicochemical analyses are carried out in CERN’s environmental laboratory.

The radiological analyses performed in the laboratory concern gamma spectrometry, alpha/beta counting and tritium liquid scintillation counting. The laboratory is equipped with:

  • 7 gamma spectrometers;
  • 2 alpha/beta counters;
  • 2 liquid scintillation counters used for tritium.
Gamma spectrometres in the environmental laboratory

Gamma spectrometres in the environmental laboratory.

The physicochemical analyses include all relevant standard water quality parameters, such as suspended matter, heavy metals, nitrogenous and organic compounds, including hydrocarbons. The laboratory is equipped with:

  • Portable devices with thermometers, pH-meters and probes for conductivity and dissolved oxygen;
  • Turbidimeter;
  • 1 Photometer U.V.;
  • 1 Ionic Chromatography
  • 1 Total Organic Carbon and Nitrogen Analyser;
  • 1 Adsorbable Organic Halogen (AOX) analyser;
  • 1 FT – IR spectrometer;
  • 1 ICP-MS. 

For any questions, please address them to environment.info@cern.ch

Physicochemical analysis

Effluent water samples for physicochemical analysis. (Image: CERN)