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Ionising radiation

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

Ionisierende Strahlung

Defence against nuclear hazards (Nukleare Gefahrenabwehr, NGA)

  • In Germany, the Federal States ("Bundeslaender") are responsible for protecting the population against threats, including those involving the malicious use of nuclear or radioactive material.
  • If the civil authorities responding to an event involving nuclear or radioactive material out of regulatory control require support, the German Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS) can provide help in the form of personnel, measurement equipment and expert advice in the fields of physics, chemistry and medicine.
  • The BfS works together with German security authorities to ensure that the preparation for a response to the potential malicious use of nuclear or radioactive material is up-to-date.

The defence against nuclear hazards involves preparing for and responding to situations in which radioactive material is out of regulatory control, in particular cases where the material is being used maliciously. This also covers the loss or discovery of radioactive materials in the event that this could possibly lead to danger to people or damage to property. For all these instances of the defence against nuclear hazards, police and radiation protection authorities must work together during the response.

Nuclear Security Communiqué, Washington D.C., April 2016


"The threat of nuclear and radiological terrorism remains one of the greatest challenges to international security, and the threat is constantly evolving."

The international Nuclear Security Summit was initiated by former US President Obama and met every two years from 2010 to 2016.

Germany is prepared to respond to events involving the malicious use of nuclear or radioactive material out of regulatory control as part of its national and international obligations. This includes the preparatory measures undertaken by German authorities, including the German Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS), to respond to actual or suspected threats involving nuclear or radioactive material.

An event of this kind could have serious health, including psychological, consequences for the population as well as economic repercussions. The aim of the preparatory measures is to prevent an event involving the malicious use of nuclear or radioactive material out of regulatory control from happening in the first place, or to minimize any harmful consequences.

BfS supports other civil authorities

In Germany, the Federal States ("Bundeslaender") are responsible for protecting the population against threats, including those involving the malicious use of nuclear or radioactive material.

The BfS can provide expert support to other civil authorities during the response to an event involving the malicious use of nuclear or radioactive material out of regulatory control as part of administrative assistance, for example for the following authorities:

  • Authorities for the protection against threats (police, state radiation protection) and
  • Civil protection authorities (fire departments, emergency services, emergency medicine).

If administrative assistance is requested from the competent authorities as part of a response to an event involving the malicious use of nuclear or radioactive material out of regulatory control, then the BfS can support other civil authorities with personnel, measurement equipment and expert advice in the fields of physics, chemistry and medicine. The working group for the defence against nuclear hazards (AG-NGA) has the task of preparing the entire BfS for such requests.

Measuring robot ManipulatorRemote controlled caterpillar vehicle with high-purity germanium detector for the indentification of radioactive material ("manipulator robot", exercise scenario)

Preparation for the defence against nuclear hazards

The BfS works together with German security authorities to ensure that the preparation for a response to the malicious use of nuclear or radioactive material is up-to-date. The work is in accordance with the international state-of-the-art in science and technology, for example the recommendations and technical documents of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Nuclear Security Series.

The BfS is working together with other international governmental authorities in the field of the defence against nuclear hazards to develop and enhance international documents and standards.

BfS supports the German Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) at major public events

The BfS supports the German Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) in securing major public events and has done so since 2007. Within the framework of this support, the locations to be secured are searched in advance for radiological threats. In addition, radiological portal monitors are set up in order to monitor entrance points and food samples are tested for radioactive contamination.

Police force with measuring instruments Open searchA police search line with measurement equipment for the search for gamma radiation from a radioactive source (exercise scenario)

Training for the response to an event

A good and efficient cooperation between police forces and radiation protection experts is essential for a successful response to an event involving the malicious use of nuclear or radioactive material out of regulatory control. For this reason the BfS takes part in regular exercises with other authorities that are involved with the defence against nuclear hazards.

In addition, the BfS holds regular meetings on the topic in order to inform and exchange information with the German competent authorities. The exercises and the meetings aim to ensure a fast and professional deployment in response to any event involving the malicious use of nuclear or radioactive material out of regulatory control.

State of 2017.05.15

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