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Ionising radiation

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

Ionisierende Strahlung

Responsibilities of the Federal Government, the states and operators in emergency radiological protection

  • If a radiological emergency occurs in a German nuclear power station, its operator must immediately inform the responsible authorities. These will act as quickly as possible - as in the case of any possible radiological emergency - to protect the public promptly and effectively.
  • In an emergency, the Federal Ministry for the Environment and the various federal authorities together form the Radiological Situation Centre for the Federal Government.
  • For this crisis committee, the BfS summarises all important information on the accident into a radiological situation overview, assessing the effects on the affected population and on the environment and recommending all necessary radiation protection measures.
  • The states come to agreement with the Federal Government on these proposals and implement the measures as required.

The term "emergency radiological protection" refers to the protection of the public from the effects of radiological events. Radiological events include accidents in nuclear power stations and other nuclear facilities, transportation accidents and terrorist attacks ("dirty bombs").

Emergency protection within facilities: responsibilities of the facility operator

In a nuclear facility - for example a nuclear power station - the operator is responsible for the safety of the facility. Emergency protection within facilities comprises all technical and organisation measures put in place within the nuclear facility to ensure that no hazardous quantities of radioactive materials are released into the environment.

If an accident occurs despite these measures, the operator must immediately inform the responsible authorities at Federal Government, state and local authority level (usually the Minister for the Environment in the state and the Federal Minister for the Environment are responsible for overseeing nuclear facilities). These then instigate the necessary emergency protection measures for the public as quickly as possible based on an assessment of the radiological situation.

Emergency protection outside of facilities: responsibilities of the Federal Government, the states and local authorities

State authorities are responsible for emergency protection outside of facilities. It is their responsibility to protect the public and the environment outside of a nuclear facility from hazardous quantities of radioactive materials.

Federal Government Radiological Situation Centre as a crisis committee

In the case of an accident with radiological consequences in the environment, the Federal Government forms a crisis committee, the Radiological Situation Centre (Radiologisches Lagezentrum, RLZ), under the leadership of the Federal Ministry for the Environment (BMU). If there is a radiological or nuclear emergency of transregional significance, the RLZ gathers together all available information about

  • how the accident occurred,
  • the accident prognosis and
  • the existing and expected effects on the environment

and forecasts the expected radiation dose for the public and the employees.

Members of the Radiological Situation Centre and their responsibilities

Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU)show / hide

The Federal Ministry for the Environment (Bundesumweltministerium, BMU) leads the Radiological Situation Centre, coordinating discussions with other federal and state ministries on measures, providing information to the public and fulfilling international information and reporting obligations. With the help of this information, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) classifies a nuclear accident according to the Ines Scale (International Nuclear Event Scale).

Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS)show / hide

The Federal Office for Radiation Protection (Bundesamt für Strahlenschutz, BfS) compiles the radiological situation overview for the RLZ. The situation overview summarises the available information on how the accident happened, assesses and forecasts the radiological situation and makes suggestions for protection measures. These can include the taking of iodine tablets or the avoidance of certain foods. The radiological situation overview also includes

  • Measurement data from the Integrated Measurement and Information System IMIS where the states and federal authorities store their radiological data. The BfS processes these measurement data into charts and tables.
  • Forecast data about the expected contamination of the environment and the radiation exposure of the public, calculated by the BfS with the assistance of the RODOS decision support system.

It also coordinates all radiological measurements in the environment that the BfS, the states and further measurement institutions take. Furthermore, it calculates the radiation dose a person could have received if they have remained within a radioactive cloud after an accident.

Federal Office of Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance (BBK)show / hide

The Federal Office of Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance (Bundesamt für Bevölkerungsschutz und Katastrophenhilfe, BBK) is part of the Radiological Situation Centre for the Federal Government.

Federal Office for the Safety of Nuclear Waste Management (BfE)show / hide

The Federal Office for the Safety of Nuclear Waste Management (Bundesamt für kerntechnische Entsorgungssicherheit, BfE) is part of the Radiological Situation Centre for the Federal Government.

Gesellschaft für Anlagen- und Reaktorsicherheit (GRS)show / hide

Gesellschaft für Anlagen- und Reaktorsicherheit (GRS) is part of the Radiological Situation Centre for the Federal Government.

As consultants to the Federal Ministry for the Environment, the Reactor Safety Commission (Reaktor-Sicherheitskommission, RSK) and the Commission on Radiological Protection (Strahlenschutzkommission, SSK) supports the RLZ in the adoption of radiation protection measures. The RLZ also works closely together with the state governments.

Federal states implement disaster protection measures

In a radiological emergency, the states come to agreement with the Federal Government about the necessary disaster protection measures and then implement these.

The disaster protection authorities in the states arrange for example that the public remain indoors with windows and doors closed so as to minimise dosage from external radiation and inhalation. If this is insufficient, the affected population can be evacuated. They also organise the distribution of iodine tablets; takings these prevents the development of thyroid cancer in children and adults.

The Federal Agency for Technical Relief (Technisches Hilfswerk, THW), the police, the fire service and various aid organisations support the state authorities.

Once the radioactive cloud has dissipated, radioactive materials remain on the ground and in foods. The states then calculate the contamination of foods and animal feed by taking samples and measurements. All findings are sent to the Integrated Measurement and Information System (IMIS), which monitors environmental radioactivity.

Longer-term measures after a radiological emergency

The authorities have a catalogue of measures available to keep longer-term radiation exposure of the public as low as possible after a radiological emergency. This has been developed by the Federal Government with the help of the BfS.

The measures catalogue includes a collection of possible long-term measures to be used after a radiological accident, such as the removal of topsoil or the decontamination of areas with pressure washers. The measures should ensure for example that evacuated people can return to safe places of residence.

State of 2018.02.23

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