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Environmental Radioactivity - Medicine - Occupational Radiation Protection - Nuclear Hazards Defence

Ionisierende Strahlung

Emergency scenarios

  • It depends on the type of accident which and how many radioactive substances are likely to be released in a radiological emergency and what impacts on the environment and the population in Germany are to be expected.
  • A variety of emergency scenarios can be used to make more specific plans for radiological emergency preparedness by developing individual strategies for each scenario to protect the population and the emergency services.

Radioactivity symbol, Sketch of a nuclear power plant, Truck, Satellite

There are different types of accidents that can cause radioactive material to be released into the environment, such as an accident in a German nuclear power plant, a transportation accident or a crash of a satellite with nuclear fuel on board.

It depends on the type of accident which and how many radioactive substances are likely to be released and what impacts on the environment and the population in Germany are to be expected. The different types of accidents are therefore described in "emergency scenarios".

Why do we need emergency scenarios?

Preparation and planning are very important in order to be able to act quickly and prudently in an emergency. With the help of the various emergency scenarios, radiological emergency preparedness can be planned more specifically.

Strategies to protect the population and the emergency services have been defined for each emergency scenario. The main objective of these protection strategies is to reduce the radiation exposure of the population in the event of an accident. To this end, each scenario is assigned the potentially relevant measures (civil protection measures, radiation protection precautions) that will help to protect the population in the best possible way.

Who defined the emergency scenarios?

According to the EU, emergency response planning should be event-specific and scenario-specific (Council Directive 2013/59/EURATOM, Annex XI ).

In Germany, the emergency scenarios and the corresponding protection strategies are defined by the federal government. Up-to-date national and international recommendations and concepts have been incorporated into the protection strategies.

The emergency scenarios

Accident at a German nuclear power plantshow / hide

This emergency scenario describes an accident at a German nuclear power plant whose potential radiological impact may require civil protection measures and radiation protection precautions.

This scenario would apply to serious accidents at those German nuclear power plants that are still in operation or in post-operation.

Accident at a foreign nuclear power plant near the German bordershow / hide

This emergency scenario describes an accident at a foreign nuclear power plant situated near the German border, whose potential radiological impact may require civil protection measures and radiation protection precautions on German territory. "Near the German border" means that the nuclear power plant is situated no further than 100 kilometres from German territory.

This scenario would apply to the following nuclear power plants:

  • Cattenom (France),
  • Chooz (France),
  • Fessenheim (France),
  • Leibstadt (Switzerland),
  • Betznau (Switzerland),
  • Gösgen (Switzerland),
  • Mühleberg (Switzerland), and
  • Temelin (Czech Republic)

Accident at a nuclear power plant in the rest of Europeshow / hide

This emergency scenario describes an accident leading to a significant release of radioactive substances at a nuclear power plant in Europe situated more than 100 kilometres from German borders. Civil protection measures for the benefit of the population on German territory would not be required due to the long distance, but radiation protection precautions might be necessary.

This emergency scenario would apply to nuclear power plants in the following countries:

  • Bulgaria,
  • Finland,
  • France (except Cattenom and Fessenheim),
  • the Netherlands,
  • the United Kingdom,
  • Romania,
  • Sweden,
  • Switzerland (except Betznau, Gösgen and Mühleberg),
  • Slovakia,
  • Spain,
  • Czech Republic (except Temelin),
  • Ukraine,
  • Hungary, and
  • Slovenia.

Accident at a nuclear power plant outside Europeshow / hide

This emergency scenario describes an accident leading to a significant release of radioactive substances at a nuclear power plant outside Europe. Civil protection measures for the benefit of the population on German territory would not be necessary due to the long distance, and radiation protection precautions would not be required either.

However, contamination of vehicles (aircraft, ships, motor vehicles) as well as of persons and goods entering Germany cannot be excluded. Slight increases of the activity concentration in the air are also possible. German nationals in the country of the accident or its neighbouring states might also be affected so that it must be decided if travel warnings should be issued.

The following countries outside Europe operate a larger number of nuclear power plants:

  • Kanada,
  • China,
  • Indien,
  • Süd-Korea und
  • Japan.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) regularly publishes a list of the nuclear power reactors in operation worldwide.

Accidents in nuclear installations (other than nuclear power plants)show / hide

This emergency scenario describes an accident at a nuclear installation which is not a nuclear power plant in Germany or in neighbouring countries near the German border. These may be, for example,

  • Research reactors,
  • Uranium enrichment plants,
  • Fuel element factories,
  • Isotope production, or
  • Storage facilities for spent fuel elements.

The impact is limited to a much smaller scope than in the case of nuclear power plant accidents. Civil protection measures and radiation protection precautions may be necessary on a local scale.

The amount and composition of the radioactive substances released may differ significantly from those encountered in nuclear power plant accidents.

In Germany, this emergency scenario would apply to

  • the Lingen fuel element production plant,
  • the Gorleben pilot conditioning plant,
  • the research reactors in Garching and Berlin, and
  • the Gronau uranium enrichment plant.

Terrorist attack or other types of attacksshow / hide

This emergency scenario describes a terrorist attack using radioactive materials in Germany. The consequences are limited to a particular location but may require both civil protection measures and radiation protection precautions on a local scale.

Such attacks may involve the release of various radioactive substances. If a release occurs, it is likely to be rapid and of relatively short duration.

Transportation accidentshow / hide

This emergency scenario describes an accident during the transportation of radioactive substances involving a release of radioactive substances (such as a road traffic accident). The consequences will probably be limited to a particular location.

Accidents can lead to the release of various radioactive substances. If a release occurs, it is likely to be rapid and of relatively short duration.

Orphan sources, open radioactive materialshow / hide

This emergency scenario describes a situation where an orphan (unregistered) radioactive source is discovered or where accidents occur during the handling of radioactive material.

The accidental melting of radioactive sources is also included in this emergency scenario.

The consequences of these events are limited to a very small scale. Typically, neither civil protection measures nor radiation protection precautions are necessary.

Satellite crashshow / hide

This emergency scenario describes the crash of a satellite containing nuclear or radiologically relevant material. There are currently almost 50 satellites of this description in Earth orbit. The radioactive substances are located in small nuclear reactors or in radioisotope batteries on board and serve to supply energy.

Although safety precautions are in place for satellites containing nuclear or radiologically relevant material, there have been isolated crashes in the past that resulted in contamination spreading over a relatively large area. A satellite crash over Germany is very unlikely. Modern satellites are usually deliberately brought down over the Pacific in areas with little ship traffic.

If a satellite crashes over land, it is unlikely that a large number of people will be exposed to increased radiation. Only persons remaining in the vicinity of particles from the reactor fuel or who are in direct physical contact with such particles would be exposed to increased external gamma and beta radiation from deposited radioactive material.

Unclear situationshow / hide

This emergency scenario describes a situation where press releases or rumours indicate that a release may have occurred, for example subsequently to an accident at a nuclear installation, yet this is not confirmed.

This emergency scenario includes, for example, the measurement of ruthenium-106 at numerous measuring points in Europe at the beginning of October 2017.

State of 2018.07.23

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