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Ionising radiation

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

Ionisierende Strahlung

Radioecology laboratory

Federal coordinating office for medicinal products and their raw materials and commodities

  • The radioecology laboratory measures the radioactive contamination in foods and environmental media, conducts field investigations and laboratory experiments and develops radiochemical methods for the quick determination of alpha and beta emitters in foods and environmental media.
  • Scientific investigations and measurements are the foundation for understanding the fundamental processes responsible for the dispersal and the accumulation of radioactive substances in the environment and for describing them by radioecological models. They also help in making recommendations for the protection of the population when large amounts of radioactive substances are released into the environment.
  • The radioecology laboratory is also the Federal coordinating office for medicinal products and their raw materials and commodities.

Coordinating Office for medicinal products and their raw materials and commodities

Task

Investigations on the behavior of radioactive substances in

  • medicinal products and their raw materials (for example teas, herbs and spices)
  • commodities (for example ceramics for dentures, wood, steel)
  • environmental samples (for examples water, soil and vegetation)

The aim of field investigations, laboratory experiments and method development is to

  • determine the radioactive contamination of environmental media,
  • understand the fundamental processes responsible for the dispersal and the accumulation of radioactive substances in the environment and to describe them by radioecological models,
  • develop or optimize radiochemical methods for the determination of alpha and beta emitters in foods and environmental media,
  • develop quick methods to be used in emergency preparedness or in cases of defense against nuclear hazards
  • codify analytical methods in guidelines and procedure manuals.

Measurements: foundation for recommendations for the protection of the population

When large amounts of radioactive substances are released into the environment, for example after a nuclear power plant accident, the corresponding federal state authorities of the Länder (federal states) concerned, are mainly responsible for radioactivity measurements.

In addition, the radioactive contamination of environmental samples and foods samples is also measured in the radioecology laboratory of the Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS). The aim is to determine the radiological situation as quickly as possible.

Based on the data reported by the Länder and their own measurement results, BfS experts can make timely recommendations on effective measures for the protection of the population to political decision-makers.

Monitoring of the radioactive contamination after the Chernobyl reactor accident

Still three decades after the Chernobyl reactor accident, the radioecology laboratory monitors the development of the radioactive contamination by measuring environmental and foods samples.

The focus is especially on foods from the forest, such as mushrooms and wild berries, which, even today, can still have increased contents of the radionuclide caesium-137.

Development of radiochemical methods

Calibration pipette with analytical balance Radioecology laboratory pipetteThe calibration balance is used to check the calibration of a pipette.

Another focus of the radioecology laboratory is the development and optimization of radiochemical methods for the determination of alpha and beta emitters in foods and environmental media. Here, quick methods used within the context of emergency preparedness or in cases of defense against nuclear hazards are of particular interest.

The radioecology laboratory is also the Coordinating Office for medicinal products and their raw materials and commodities. Within the scope of this function, for example teas, herbs and spices are randomly tested.

Equipment

Among others, the following equipments are available for the preparation and radiochemical processing of the samples:

  • mills and grinders,
  • drying cabinets
  • incinerators,
  • microwave digesters,
  • refrigerated centrifuges as well as
  • chemical fume hoods.

The instrumental equipment of the radioecology laboratory also includes high-purity germanium detectors for measuring gamma radiation as well as several measuring systems for the determination of alpha and beta emitters.

Quality assurance and quality management

As in all laboratories of the Federal Office for Radiation Protection quality management and quality assurance are top-ranking issues.

The radioecology laboratory participates regularly in comparative measurements (interlaboratory comparisons and proficiency tests). Moreover, the radioecology laboratory is working towards accreditation according to DIN EN ISO/IEC 17025 (DAkkS (German accreditation body)) to prove its high-level technical and professional expertise.

International networking

The radioecology laboratory is a member of the international laboratory network ALMERA (Analytical Laboratories for the Measurement of Environmental Radioactivity) of the IAEA.

State of 2018.10.01

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