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International Co-operation

BfS' co-operation with international organisations

The Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS) co-operates with scientific organisations and regulatory bodies on both the national and international level in all its areas of activity, that is, radiation protection, nuclear safety, transport and storage of radioactive substances, as well as disposal of radioactive waste.

The most important goals of international co-operation are:

  • active participation in the development of internationally recognized standards for both radiation protection and handling of radioactive substances,
  • exchange of experience with international partners in order to identify needs for improvements within the BfS’s own responsibility,
  • scientific exchange on methods and findings, on the assessment of the international status of science and technology and its further development, and on co-operation for research and studies,
  • exchange of information, and providing support or assistance, as required.

International co-operation to develop standards and regulations

Radiation protection limits and standards are implemented in Germany based on international recommendations and regulations as in most other countries. For ionising radiation, the related procedure can be outlined as follows: Based on scientific reports on radiation exposure and their review by UNSCEAR (United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation), the ICRP (International Commission on Radiation Protection) issues recommendations to update, consolidate and further develop the regime of radiation protection.

The European Commission (EC), or the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna then apply these recommendations within the framework of the EURATOM Treaty or of international agreements, respectively, to convert basic parts into directives, regulations and other rules. The procedures to be performed in the different areas (ionising radiation, non-ionising radiation) are similar.

EU Directives have to be implemented into national legislation

Member States are obliged to implement EU Directives into national legislation. For instance, the ICRP Recommendation 60, published in 1990, gave rise to the EURATOM Basic Safety Standards (EU Directive 96/29/EURATOM of May 13, 1996), which were put into national legislation by the revised version of the German Radiation Protection Ordinance (StrlSchV) and X-Ray Ordinance (RöV) which came into effect in 2001, or 2002, respectively. ICRP Report No.103 was published at the end of 2007. The IAEA has implemented this recommendation in the new "Radiation Protection and Safety of Radiation Sources: International Basic Safety Standards", published at the end of 2011 as No. GSR Part 3. On 5 December 2013, the European Council adopted the Council Directive 2013/59/EURATOM of 5 December 2013 laying down basic safety standards for protection against the dangers arising from exposure to ionising radiation.

International exchange of experience

Although differences in the procedures and the legal framework relating to radiation protection, nuclear safety and waste management exist in many countries, the international exchange of experience and information is essential to provide for protection of both population and environment. International co-operation takes place in all BfS departments. BfS therefore, in agreement with BMUB and other Federal Ministries, is represented in all relevant international bodies, in order to contribute the German expertise and appropriately represent the national interests.

An international platform is provided by the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). NEA supports several senior expert committees in the fields of law, radiation protection, nuclear regulatory activities, safety of nuclear installations and waste management, as well as additional expert and working groups in each committee.

In addition to the international framework, there are bilateral agreements with the neighbouring states of Germany for routine consultations and intensive exchange on the expert level.

Arguments for the BfS' co-operation with international organisations

Extensive co-operation between the BfS and international organisations is based on the following arguments:

  • The fundamental biologic effects of ionising and non-ionising radiation as well as the behaviour of radioactive materials in the environment are the same everywhere. It is, therefore, expedient to compare empirical data from observations, experiments and their derived models so that, on the one hand, questions of evaluations can be validated and, on the other, work is not duplicated.
  • This becomes even more relevant in a time when every country is witnessing major personnel cutbacks in this field. Through international co-operation, competence can be preserved: Either certain groups can specialise in specific topics or personnel can be swapped, thereby keeping each other up-to-date.
  • Moreover, there is a sheer practical necessity to react to both the mergence of markets within the EU and to the associated trans-national activities of its employees.

International tasks of the BfS

The BfS is also a WHO (World Health Organization) International Collaborating Centre in various areas of radiation protection, thus actively contributing to the work done by the WHO. The BfS tasks of a Collaborating Centre cover five subject areas:

  • Radiation risks in the low dose range,
  • Network on biological dosimetry,
  • Non-ionising radiation,
  • Radon risk communication and
  • Medical radiation exposure.

All these five projects are aimed at scientific assessment of potential and existing risks to health and environment. Based on these objectives, BfS will make recommendations for behaviour to the public.

Within the scope of control of the nuclear test ban treaty, coordinated by the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), BfS operates the only measurement station for radioactivity in the air in Central Europe. Currently, the worldwide measuring network consists of 60 stations; at a later stage of expansion, there will be 80 highly sensitive measurement systems for radioactivity in the air, stationed all over the world.

International co-operation focuses on the scientific exchange of knowledge

Finally, international co-operation is not only a matter of scientific exchange; it is an overall concept, on the one hand providing incentives for our staff members, that is, opportunities to work at other organisations, on the other hand providing benefits for the delegating organisation. In other words: International co-operation focuses on the scientific exchange of knowledge and promoting of science and technology (see also "EU Research Framework Programme") but also on getting to know the safety cultures and environments in which radiation protection is practised.

State of 2017.01.04

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