The present study investigated for the first time the incidence of childhood leukaemia (1990-2001) around French nuclear installations using a geographic zoning based on estimated doses to the red bone marrow due to gaseous radioactive discharges. The observed number of cases of acute leukaemia (O=750) in 40 km2 centred on 23 French nuclear installations between 1990 and 2001 was lower than expected (E=795.01), although not significantly so (standardised incidence ratio SIR=0.94, 95% confidence interval=(0.88-1.01)). In none of the five zones defined on the basis of the estimated doses was the SIR significantly >1. There was no evidence of a trend in SIR with the estimated doses for all the children or for any of the three age groups studied. This study confirmed that there was no evidence of an increased incidence of childhood leukaemia around the 23 French nuclear sites.