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Ionising radiation

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

Ionisierende Strahlung

International cooperation in the field of aero-gamma spectrometry

  • BfS performs regular national measuring exercises and has also participated in several international measuring campaigns in cooperation with the German Federal Police since the mid-1990s.
  • Cooperation with Germany’s neighbours France and Switzerland, in particular, has been intensified since 2000.

The Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS) performs regular national measuring exercises and has also participated in several international measuring campaigns in cooperation with the German Federal Police since the mid-1990s.

The objectives of such international measuring campaigns are:

  • Harmonizing the different national measuring strategies;
  • Providing for external quality assurance by means of a comparison of the measuring results;
  • Rapidly combining the measured data in order to create joint contamination maps.

Intensified cooperation since 2000

Cooperation with Germany’s neighbours France (CEA) and Switzerland (National Emergency Operations Centre), in particular, has been intensified since 2000. In this context, the following joint exercises were performed:

Measuring exercises since 2015

International measuring exercises since 2015

Since 2011, BfS publishes detailed reports with respect to the major national and international measuring exercises and the corresponding results and makes them available on the internet. International campaigns were performed in Saxony/Thuringia and the Czech Republic (2015) and in Switzerland (2017). Please find more detailed information on these international measuring exercises at "Measurement exercises and the corresponding results in detail":

Measuring campaign 2009

Measuring campaign in Germany in 2009

In order to enhance the cooperation between measuring teams from France, Switzerland and Germany, an aero measuring campaign was performed in the Munich area in 2009. Measurements focused on the following tasks:

  • Finding radioactive sources placed in vehicles that were driven over a specific distance within a specific period of time;
  • Finding hidden radioactive sources;
  • Large-scale mapping of natural radiation anomalies.

An area covering 90 square kilometres near the town of Neunburg vorm Wald was examined for the third task and a map was created showing the radionuclides thorium-232, bismuth-214, potassium-40 and the gamma dose rate. The teams had to meet the following requirements: 3 hours operation time in the survey area, flying at a height of 100 metres and keeping a distance of 370 metres between flight paths.

Comparison of the averaged mass-related activities of potassium-40, bismuth-214, thorium-232 and the gamma dose rate in the survey area Comparison of the averaged mass-related activitiesComparison of the averaged mass-related activities of potassium-40, bismuth-214, thorium-232 and the gamma dose rate, determined by the three teams

The teams transmitted the measured data to the operation centre in Munich soon after they had completed the measuring flights in the relevant areas. The measured data was combined with geographical maps, as illustrated in the figure on the left-hand side. The figure on the right-hand side shows the averaged mass-related activity concentrations for the radionuclides to be measured in the survey area. The measured results are comparable and in good agreement, taking the methodological uncertainty into account.

According to the participating experts and observers, in particular this part of the exercise has shown that helicopter-based measuring systems are extremely powerful in identifying and localizing large-scale environmental contamination.

Measuring campaign 2007

Measuring campaign in Switzerland in 2007

In August 2007, the tri-national measuring campaign “ARM07” was conducted in the area of Zurich and Basel. This measuring exercise was focused on:

  • Radiological mapping of the areas surrounding the nuclear installations of Gösgen and Mühleberg (comparison measurements);
  • Vehicle- and helicopter-based search for several radioactive sources placed on the premises of the freight terminal of Basel railway station in Muttenz; and
  • Joint radiological mapping ("composite mapping") of the border triangle near Basel.

The survey area chosen for the radiological mapping activities comprised three measuring areas (with roughly the same dimensions) situated on the territories of the three participating states, as can be seen in the figure on the left-hand side (F is for France, D for Germany and CH for Switzerland). The spatial distribution of the gamma dose rate is shown in the figure on the right-hand side.

Terrestrial portion of the gamma dose rate, determined within the scope of "Composite Mapping" Terrestrial portion of the gamma dose rateTerrestrial portion of the gamma dose rate Source: Measuring flights 2007, 27 - 30 August (National Emergency Operations Centre, Switzerland)

International Aero-gamma Workshop

In October 2010, the Federal Office for Radiation Protection arranged and coordinated an international workshop on the state-of-the-art of science and technology in the field of aero-gamma spectrometry. 50 participants from 11 European countries and the United States attended the workshop that was held in Berlin.

The participants presented and discussed the results obtained in measuring campaigns over the last ten years and the methodological and technical advancements in the measuring technique.

EU research activities and support for international institutions

Between 2000 and 2002, the Federal Office for Radiation Protection and the Federal Police participated in the research project "European Calibration and Coordination of Mobile and Airborne Gamma Spectrometry (ECCOMAGS)", together with eight European teams for helicopter-borne measurements. The project is funded by the European Commission.

Between 2004 and 2008, the Federal Office for Radiation Protection also supported the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) as consultant for the integration of helicopter- and vehicle-based gamma-spectrometric measuring systems with the aim of detecting underground nuclear weapons testing, and BfS assisted in the performance of measuring exercises.

State of 2017.09.21

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