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Ionising radiation

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

Ionisierende Strahlung

Laboratories for the Analysis and Measurement of Radioactive Substances

  • With highly specialized laboratories, BfS is able to measure radionuclides in virtually all media, such as water, soil, air and food.
  • Depending on the radionuclide, its content in the medium to be analysed and the nature of the medium, various methods for analysis and measurement are used.
  • Half of the laboratories are also Coordinating Offices for the monitoring of environmental radioactivity.

organisational chart of laboratories Laboratories: organisational chartLaboratories for monitoring environmental radioactivity and for dosimetry (State of 14 July 2016, in German)

With highly specialized laboratories, the Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS) is able to measure radionuclides in virtually all media, such as water, soil, air and food.

Its tasks range from emission control in nuclear power plants to environmental radioactivity monitoring, as well as trace analysis of radioactive substances in the atmosphere for the monitoring of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

Analytical and measurement methods

Depending on

  • the radionuclide,
  • its content in the medium to be analysed and
  • the nature of the medium,

various methods for analysis and measurement are used.

Gamma Radiation

Gamma radiation

The easiest to measure are radionuclides which emit gamma rays during decay (gamma emitters). Gamma radiation penetrates the sample material and the measuring vessel and is detected by the measuring instrument, mostly special semiconductor detectors (high-purity germanium detectors).

Alpha and Beta Radiation

Alpha and beta radiation

Radionuclides which only emit alpha and beta particles during their decay (alpha and beta emitters) cannot be measured in this way. Most or even all of the radiation is shielded by the sample material or the walls of the measuring vessel. In this case, the radiochemical processing of the sample is needed first. In the process, the radionuclides to be measured are separated from the sample material and other radionuclides interfering with the measurement by means of elaborate methods.

Suitable measurement instruments are

  • proportional counters and liquid scintillation counters for alpha and beta emitters as well as
  • special semiconductor detectors (silicon detectors) for alpha emitters.

Advancement of analytical and measurement methods

The radiochemical methods for determining alpha and beta emitters are continually improved at the Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS). Quick methods are of particular importance here. The objective is to determine the radioactive contamination of food and the environment as quickly as possible

in order to be able to take effective countermeasures for human protection in a targeted way.

BfS-Laboratories: Coordinating Offices for environmental radioactivity monitoring

Half of the laboratories are also Coordinating Offices for the monitoring of environmental radioactivity. The Coordinating Offices' tasks range from measurement tasks to

  • the development and determination of sampling, analysing, measurement and calculation methods as well as
  • the performance of comparative measurements and comparative analyses (interlaboratory comparisons, proficiency tests).

Accredited laboratories

A high value is placed on quality management and quality assurance at the BfS. All laboratories participate regularly in national and international comparative measurements (interlaboratory comparisons) or offer comparative measurements as part of their Coordinating Office function.

A quality standard conforming to the DIN EN ISO/IEC 17205 standard is the guideline. Most of the laboratories have either already been accredited according to this standard or are working towards accreditation. This proves that the laboratories maintain an efficient quality management system and attests the technical and professional expertise to provide reliable measurement and analysis results.

State of 2018.04.17

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