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Radiation protection for nuclear emergencies

Federal Environment Minister Schulze learns about the step-by-step development of the Radiological Situation Centre

Joint press release from the Federal Office for Radiation Protection and the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Conservation and Nuclear Safety

Year of issue 2018
Date 2018.08.27

Prepared for the worst case that will hopefully never happen: the Federal Environment Ministry and the Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS) are taking comprehensive precautions to arm themselves for worldwide emergencies involving radioactive substances, for example in case of accident at a nuclear power station. In this network, the BfS is the central authority for expert reports and assessments of the radiological situation.

On Monday, Federal Minister Svenja Schulze learned about the current status of developments at the RLZ at the BfS site in Neuherberg near Munich.

Protecting the public against radiation in Germany remains relevant

Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze says: "Even though the withdrawal from nuclear energy is already decided, the protection of the public from radiation in Germany remains relevant. This was demonstrated to us most recently by the reactor disaster at Fukushima. We must always be prepared to protect citizens effectively in emergencies, which could also occur outside of Germany. Furthermore, new threats are conceivable and we must consider these too."

"Radioactivity does not stop at borders. Common preparation and planning are very important for effective action in an emergency. It is crucial to identify the type, activity and spatial distribution of radioactive substances in the environment as quickly as possible. This enables the prediction of further distribution and the protection of citizens from harmful effects," says BfS President Inge Paulini.

The Radiological Situation Centre of the federal government as crisis team

Radiation protection law stipulates that in the case of an accident where radioactive material is released into the environment over a wide area, the Radiological Situation Centre (RLZ) under leadership of the Federal Environment Ministry (BMU) will immediately set to work. The radiological situation will be analysed there. On this basis, the RLZ head office in the BMU cooperates with

  • the federal states,
  • neighbouring countries,
  • the European Commission and
  • the International Atomic Energy Agency

and coordinates further procedures.

Among others, the BfS is responsible for compiling an overview, which forms the basis for all further decisions in an emergency. Until now, the federal states were each responsible for compiling their own individual overview for the purposes of disaster protection and the federal government established transregional measures for radiation protection precautions.

Helicopter-assisted measurements for an informative overview

Crucial to an informative overview are quick and reliable measurements, some of which are taken from helicopters, as Federal Minister Schulze recently discovered. From the air, it is possible to calculate quickly and widely which radioactive substances have been deposited on the soil, which areas are particularly affected in a nuclear emergency and the level of radiation exposure derived from this for the population.

Helicopter measurements are additionally used for geological mapping and also to trace and map radiation anomalies as a result of industrial or mining activities. Fragments of crashed satellites, stolen radioactive material or lost highly-radioactive sources can also be identified.

Further Information

The regulations of the radiation protection law on emergency protection already came into effect last year. On 1 October 2017, the RLZ became operational and is in a position at any time to compile a radiological overview. The improvement of infrastructure and the compilation of education and exercise programmes, as well as detailed plans for predictable scenarios, should be complete by the end of 2020.

More Information (in German)

State of 2018.08.27

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