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Accident management: Consequences for Germany
In Germany, in case of an accident in a nuclear power plant disaster preparedness is based on
- the "Basic Recommendations for Emergency Preparedness in the Environment of Nuclear Facilities" (in German only) and
- the "Radiological Bases for Decisions on Measures for the Protection of the Population against Accidental Releases of Radionuclides" (in German only).
Since February 2014, these regulations are supplemented by a recommendation of the German Commission on Radiological Protection: "Planning areas for emergency response near nuclear power plants". The planning areas for emergency response as described in this recommendation are listed below:
|Planning area||Previous situation (2008)||Current situation (2014)|
|Central zone||Up to a distance of ca. 2 kilometres||Up to a distance of ca. 5 kilometres|
|Middle zone||Up to a distance of ca. 10 kilometres||Up to a distance of ca. 20 kilometres|
|Outer zone||Up to a distance of ca. 25 kilometres||Up to a distance of ca. 100 kilometres|
|Long distance zone||Up to a distance of ca. 100 kilometres||Entire territory of Germany|
Among others, the federal states are responsible for disaster prevention measures such as evacuation. The Technical Assistance Organisation (THW), the Federal Office of Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance (BBK) assists them. If radioactivity is released also the Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS) will be involved.
Federal and state institutions measure radioactivity in air, water, soil, food and feed. The Integrated Measurement and Information System (IMIS) operated by the BfS collects these data. The Real-time Online Decision System RODOS calculates the environmental contamination and the radiation exposure to man. The data are presented immediately as maps and tables to competent authorities.
Beyond disaster prevention, the Precautionary Radiation Protection is part of the radiological emergency response. If intervention levels are exceeded the Federal Government prohibits and restricts the consumption of food and the use of feed. In coordination with the federal states also certain practices may recommended. The legal basis is the "Precautionary Radiation Protection Act".
The Precautionary Radiation Protection Act
Directly after the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident, in Germany uniform regulations were missing. The federal government and the federal states recommended different measures. Also the intervention levels for food and feed were not the same. A better coordination in case of comparable situations in future was inevitable. Therefore the "Act on the Precautionary Protection of the Population against Radiation Exposure" (The Precautionary Radiation Protection Act, StrVG, amended in 2008) was passed on 19 December 1986.
The purpose of this Act is "to keep radiation exposure to man and the radioactive contamination of the environment as low as possible in case of events with possible significant radiological consequences, taking into account the state of the art of science and technology and all circumstances". Accordingly, the Federal Office for Radiation Protection will determine the contamination of the environment following an event and assesses the resulting doses. For this purpose federal authorities and the federal states provide their monitoring data of the environment. The Federal Environmental Ministry will evaluate the situation, to initiate measures and to inform the public.
Intervention reference levels
Protective measures are taken to avoid or reduce effects by radiation exposure to man. Therefore, specific dose intervention reference levels for evacuation, sheltering and the distribution of iodine tablets are fixed in advance.
|Measure||Organ-specific dose |
|Effective dose||Integration times and exposure pathways||Old reference|
|Sheltering||10 Millisievert||External exposure in 7 days and effective dose by inhalation||5 - 50 |
|Intake of iodine tablets||Inhalation dose of radio iodine in 7 days (including equivalent dose by life-time)||200 – 1,000 Millisievert thyriod dose for children and adults|
|Evacuation||100 Millisievert||External exposure in 7 days and effective dose by inhalation||100 - 500 |
Catalogue of protective measures
In case of an event, effective protection measures have to be taken as soon as possible. Especially in the early phase, radioactive contamination of food and animal feedstuff can be avoided or reduced by harvesting in time, covering cultures or protect livestock in stables. This needs to be done before a radioactive cloud passes. Later on the reduction of radioactivity in contaminated food have to be considered (e. g. by storage or technological processing). The catalogue of protective measures specifies recommendations for
- Sheltering and
- Iodine blockage
such as blocking of regions or roads, wearing masks, change of clothing etc.
Also the benefits, the disadvantages as well as the efficiency of measures are considered. For example, feasibility, acceptance in the population and costs are analysed. The BfS has contributed to the preparation of the catalogue of counter measures.
Infant’s thyroids are much more sensitive to radioactive iodine than adults’ thyroids. Therefore, recent research studies defined different reference levels. Children up to 18 years and pregnant women should take iodine tablets if the thyroid dose exceeds 50 Millisievert. Adults up to 45 years should take iodine tablets if the thyroid dose exceeds 250 Millisievert. As a result, the planning zones for the distribution of iodine tablets to children and pregnant women were extended from 25 km to 100 km around a nuclear power plant.
In February 2014 the planning zones for iodine blockage were again extended: For adults up to 100 kilometres around a nuclear power plant, for children and pregnant women to the whole of Germany. To cover the additional demand for iodine tablets, altogether 137 million iodine tablets were purchased.
Up to 25 kilometres around a nuclear facility these iodine tablets have already been distributed to households or stored in communities. The distribution of iodine tablets outside the 25-kilometre-radius is co-ordinated by the German Joint Information and Situation Centre. In case of an accident the iodine tablets have to be delivered within twelve hours, day and night. The tablets are stored in eight facilities all over Germany.
The routine and intensive measuring program
A national measuring network monitors the environmental radioactivity. It measures both the normal radioactivity and the radioactivity resulting from an accident release. The Precautionary Radiation Protection Act regulates the responsibility of federal and federal state institutions for measuring data:
- Federal Office for Radiation Protection: Network measuring for the gamma dose rate with around 1,800 monitoring stations,
- German Weather Service: Monitoring of radionuclide concentration in air and in precipitation at 52 monitoring stations,
- Federal Institute for Hydrology: Monitoring of radionuclide concentration in federal waterways,
- Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency: Monitoring of radionuclide concentration in the North Sea and the Baltic Sea.
Measurements in agricultural and resident areas
Measurements in agricultural and resident areas are conducted by the federal states on behalf of the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB). About 60 federal and federal state institutions measures
- Animal feedstuff,
- Drinking water and groundwater,
- Waste, waste water, and clearing sludge.
Under the direction of the BfS, a routine and an intensive measurement program have been developed. It is the basis for assessing the radiological situation. These programmes determine where, by whom an in what frequency environmental media are to be measured.
Integrated Measuring and Information System for the Surveillance of Environmental Radioactivity (IMIS)
To be prepared for an event such as the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident, the measurements and calculations need to be co-ordinated, the data exchange and the internal flow of information need to be managed and the individual system components need to be streamlined. Pursuant to The Precautionary Radiation Protection Act, this co-ordination task was taken over by the BfS which was founded in 1989. The BfS administrates the "Integrierte Mess- und Informationssystem zur Überwachung der Umweltradioaktivität" (IMIS), which was established to manage the data of the federal and federal state measuring institutions.
State of 2017.07.11