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Five years after Fukushima – consequences for Germany

König: "Further development of emergency preparedness remains central challenge for the future"

Year of issue 2016
Date 2016.03.10

The last intact reactor unit of Fukushima Daiichi Fukushima DaiichiFukushima Daiichi: View with last intact reactor unit

The 11 March 2016 will mark the fifth anniversary of the reactor disaster in the Fukushima nuclear power plant as a result of a devastating tsunami. The worst nuclear accident since the reactor disaster of Chernobyl in April 1986 has had and still has serious consequences for man and environment in Japan. In Germany, Fukushima led immediately to the phase-out of the use of nuclear energy.

"The consequences of Fukushima in Germany, however, will go beyond the phase-out of nuclear energy," explains Wolfram König, President of the Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS). Supported by all political parties, the German Bundestag subsequently passed an Act for the search for a repository especially for high-level radioactive waste. König: "For the first time it is now possible to solve the issue of disposal safely in the long term. It is no longer representative of the pros and cons of nuclear energy."

Fukushima marks a break with respect to nuclear emergency preparedness, which is activated in the event of an accident in a nuclear power plant to protect the population. In contrast to the reactor accident in Chernobyl 25 years previously, the release of large amounts of radioactivity was lasting for weeks – a scenario that had until then not been taken into account sufficiently. The BfS analysed the occurrences in Japan and recommended consequences to be drawn from this for Germany. König: "Based on the BfS analyses, emergency preparedness has been fundamentally reviewed." As a result of the BfS findings, the Commission on Radiological Protection discussed the subject. In February 2014, it passed new guidelines for emergency preparedness.

König also indicates, however, that the challenges have not come to an end with the phase-out of nuclear energy. "With the last nuclear power plants being shut down in Germany in 2022, we keep the subject of risks of nuclear energy use. In particular against the background of a multitude of especially old reactors in the neighbouring states, the further development of emergency preparedness remains a central future challenge."

Studies of the BfS in the aftermath of Fukushima

With the help of simulations for three typical nuclear power plant sites and the weather conditions over an entire year, the BfS calculated up to what distances measures could become necessary in the event of a serious accident and up to what radius these measures should be planned beforehand.

The BfS came to the conclusion that as a result of the experiences gained with Fukushima, evaluations should be planned for up to a distance of 20 kilometres to a damaged plant instead of previously 10 kilometres and that one should prepare for iodine tablets to be distributed nationwide in the future instead of only in a radius of 100 kilometres around nuclear power plants. More information on this topic:

After Fukushima, the EU has also established new standards. A new EU Directive on radiation protection must be implemented into German law by 2018. According to this Directive, the German emergency management system has to be planned with much stricter regulations. The state must inform the citizens in a more transparent way. The BfS has significantly been involved in the development.

State of 2016.03.10


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