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BfS experts training in Chernobyl exclusion zone

Year of issue 2018
Date 2018.08.31

In a nuclear emergency, rapid deployment and precise measurements form the basis for all further decisions. To ensure these skills in a worst case scenario, experts from the Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS) have been training under the most authentic conditions possible.

From 3 to 7 September 2018, the BfS carried out a comprehensive measurement exercise in Chernobyl. Even 32 years after the reactor accident, increased radiation values are still present in the 30km exclusion zone around the nuclear power station.

Training for the worst-case scenario under realistic conditions

"In the case of an accident, where radioactive substances escape from a nuclear power station, precise information is required as quickly as possible about the radiation exposure in the affected areas. So as to adopt suitable protection measures, environmental contamination must be forecast quickly and reliably, measured and the resulting radiation exposure for local people calculated. To ensure that these processes function, our employees regularly practise for the worst-case scenario under the most realistic conditions," says the President of the BfS, Inge Paulini.

Handheld measuring device used to determine the ambient dose rate in front of the Chernobyl reactor. The display shows a value of 3.04 microsievert per hour. Measuring device in front of the Chernobyl reactorMeasuring the ambient dose rate on a handheld measuring device at the Chernobyl reactor

For the exercise, in which 26 BfS employees took part, a training scenario is developed that simulates an accident in a nuclear power station. On location, the individual measurement teams, some with protective suits and breathing masks, are deployed in 13 vehicles or on foot with rucksack-supported measurement systems. These are used to measure

  • the local dose rate, i.e. the radiation to which a person is exposed in a given time and place, and
  • the soil contamination at different points within the exclusion zone around Chernobyl.

The acquired measurement data are then transmitted by mobile data transfer to Germany, where they are further processed and evaluated in the BfS measurement office.

Limit values guarantee the safety of measurement teams

In the exclusion zone around Chernobyl there is local contamination from the reactor accident and radiation values that are never seen in Germany. In collaboration with the Ukrainian authorities, the statutory provisions for occupational radiation protection that apply both locally and in Germany are adhered to so that the health risk for exercise participants is reduced to a minimum.

The objective of the exercise is to practise

  • the process of mobile measurement,
  • the coordination of the measurement teams and
  • the transmission and evaluation of data

under realistic, technically challenging conditions. In 2016, BfS experts trained in the Chernobyl exclusion zone for the first time. The BfS was supported by the Chernobyl Centre for Nuclear Safety, Radioactive Waste and Radioecology. In the current exercise, participants are recording their experiences in a video diary, which will be published on the BfS website.

State of 2018.08.31

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