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

Ionisierende Strahlung

Monitoring station Schauinsland: history and tasksmission

  • Shortly after World War II (1946), a group of scientists from the Institute of Physics of the Albert-Ludwigs-University in Freiburg by Prof. Wolfgang Gentner and Dr. Albert Sittkus began to conduct experiments to characterise the cosmic radiation on Mt Schauinsland in the Black Forest.
  • In the spring of 1953, the researchers for the first time succeeded in detecting fallout from nuclear weapons tests in precipitation samples.
  • As a result, a permanent monitoring station was built on Mt Schauinsland (1200 meters above sea level) for the continuous long-term monitoring of the atmosphere for artificial and natural radioactivity. In 1957 the station began operation.
  • Today the station is also part of the International Monitoring System (IMIS) for the verification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) adopted by the UN.

Historical measurement setup for monitoring the atmosphere for artificial radioactivity Sittkus - Measuring StationHistorical measurement setup for monitoring the atmosphere for artificial radioactivity (1960s)

Shortly after World War II (1946), a group of scientists from the Institute of Physics of the Albert-Ludwigs-University in Freiburg led by of Prof. Wolfgang Gentner and Dr. Albert Sittkus began to conduct experiments to charaterise the cosmic radiation on Mt Schauinsland in the Black Forest.

In the spring of 1953, the researchers for the first time succeeded in detecting fallout from nuclear weapons tests in precipitation samples. As a result, a permanent monitoring station was built on Mt Schauinsland (1200 meters above sea level) for the continuous long-term monitoring of the atmosphere for artificial and natural radioactivity. In 1957 the station began operation.

In the following years, monitoring the environment for radioactive substances became more and more important due to the increasing military and civil use of nuclear energy. New methods for nuclide-specific measurements of radioactive substances bound to airborne dust and for the measurement of radioactive noble gases in air were developed. One of these systems has been in continuous operation since 1957. Up to date data are made available on the Internet on a weekly basis.

Until 1982: Freiburg-Schauinsland branch of the Max Planck Institute

Up until 1980, radioactive substances from atmospheric nuclear weapons tests were detected a number of times at the station, the last test being Lop Nor, China.

From 1958 to 1982 the monitoring station and the Freiburg laboratory, in its capacity as the "Freiburg-Schauinsland branch", was part of the Max-Planck-Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg.

As the "Institute for Atmospheric Radioactivity" (IAR), the facilities were merged into the Federal Office of Civil Defence (BZS) in 1982.

1989: The monitoring station is integrated into the newly founded BfS

View of the BfS Schauinsland measuring station BfS site on the SchauinslandThe Schauinsland monitoring station of the BfS

The radioactive cloud from the reactor disaster in Chernobyl was also detected at the monitoring station on Mt Schauinsland. Following the reactor disaster, the Freiburg research group and the Schauinsland station were integrated into the newly founded Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS) and the range of tasks was continually extended to include the field of "emergency preparedness". This also entailed steadily increasing cooperation with other countries in the areas of

  • monitoring networks,
  • data exchange and
  • the development of common strategies for nuclear emergencies.

The area of trace analysis was augmented by

  • high airflow air samplers,
  • methods for the nuclide-specific determination of trace amounts of α-, β and γ emitters in ground-level air as well as
  • automatic systems for highly sensitive airborne dust and noble gas measurements.

Monitoring station integrated into national and international measuring networks

Continuous measurements - not only on Mt Schauinsland but also worldwide - have become increasingly important over the years. Today the monitoring station is integrated into national (Integrated Measurement and Information System, IMIS) and international monitoring networks (Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, CTBT, "Sparse Network" according to Art. 35/36 EURATOM).

In addition to highly sensitive monitoring equipment for trace analysis, the station has a multitude of measuring instruments used for gathering data in real time in the context of emergency preparedness.

State of 2017.08.22

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