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Inaugural speech by Dr. Inge Paulini from the BfS

On 26 April 2017 at a ceremony in Salzgitter, Dr. Inge Paulini made her inaugural speech as the new President of the Federal Office for Radiation Protection before an audience of around 50 guests from politics and various organisations.

begin 2017.04.26
location Bundesamt für Strahlenschutz, Salzgitter

Dr. Inge Paulini at her inaugural speech Inaugural speech of Inge PauliniDr. Inge Paulini, President of the BfS

I would like to take this opportunity to welcome warmly all employees of the Federal Office for Radiation Protection – those from here in Salzgitter as well as those from Berlin, Munich, Freiburg, Bonn and Rendsburg. I am delighted that colleagues who cannot be here with us today in Salzgitter can follow this event via live video broadcasting.

I would also like to welcome employees from the Federal Office for the Safety of Nuclear Waste Management and the Bundesgesellschaft für Endlagerung/Federal Company for Final Storage.

Thanks for trust and support

To begin, I would like to thank you, Federal Minister Hendricks, for your kind words and for the trust that you and the federal cabinet have placed in me. I promise that I will do everything in my power to be worthy of that trust.

My warmest thanks also to Wolfram König, my predecessor at the head of the BfS. When it became clear that the leadership of the BfS would be entrusted to me, it was you, Wolfram, who stood by my side to ensure that my entry into this post was as smooth as possible. It is also largely thanks to you that I am taking on the management of an institution that is regarded in politics and by the public as a credible and independent stakeholder.

I would also like to thank you, Mr Nimbach – since the cabinet decision, you have met me with great friendship and openness and over the last few weeks have already offered me powerful support.

Touching on different BfS topics

A few words about me: when I was asked if I could imagine leading the BfS, my instant reaction was that "I knew next to nothing about radiation protection". Although a scientific background was required for the proactive and active handling of the topics, it quickly became clear to me that it was just as important to have experience in administration and management, in scientific policy consultancy, in communicating with the public and not least in economics. I have all this in spades so I accepted in good faith.

Looking more closely, I also found a range of points where my career path had touched on various BfS topics – for example health protection in indoor spaces, Multiple Chemical Sensitivity or MCS, which demonstrates many similarities to electromagnetic hypersensitivity, consumer protection and communication with the public.

Reorientation of the authority

Ms Hendricks and Mr König have already reminded us of the anniversary of Chernobyl. The reactor disaster on 26 April 1986 was the occasion for the founding of the BfS in 1989. The organisational structure was arranged at that time to improve the radiation protection of humans and the environment. Today too, the BfS finds itself in a situation of upheaval – on many levels – which requires reorientation both organisationally and technically:

Firstly, the legislative changes in the fields of radiation protection and final storage involve a division of tasks among a total of three institutions: the Federal Office for Radiation Protection, the Federal Office for the Safety of Nuclear Waste Management (BfE) and the Bundesgesellschaft für Endlagerung (BGE). For the BfS, the new structure opens up the possibility of repositioning itself as the government’s central specialist authority for radiation protection. The BfE and BGE are still under construction and the BfS is being reorganised. This is a tremendous challenge for all colleagues in all three institutions. During this transition period, the crossover areas of the BfS will remain on hand for the BfE and the BGE, so that the three rapidly changing facilities are fully supported. This requires great dedication from colleagues!

Secondly, there are also technical changes: the new radiation protection legislation should for the first time bring together systematically all areas of protection from ionising radiation under one law. This involves altered and new tasks for the BfS, for example in terms of nuclear emergency protection and in medical radiation protection. If the law is passed before the summer break, the changes in emergency protection will come into effect already this year. And with many other new regulations to be implemented by the end of 2018, there's plenty to keep the BfS busy!

Thirdly, the anniversary of Chernobyl reminds us of the social significance associated with radiation protection. 31 years have passed since that dreadful day. For many people, this seems like a long time. But this period corresponds precisely to the half-life of Caesium-137, which was released on that day in large quantities.

This example shows the significance of the work carried out by the BfS. With their specialist technical work, BfS employees fulfil the public assignment of protecting humans and the environment from the possible damage caused by ionising and non-ionising radiation. This can be successful only if there is social awareness of the topics dealt with by the BfS. Good radiation protection must therefore be visible! The BfS has already made important contributions here. Because attention has been focused on disposal issues, other important BfS working fields have in recent times received less attention from politics and the public. This is one of the great opportunities I see in the division of tasks among three institutions. We at the BfS can and should be more visible.

Change as opportunity

Times of change can be uncomfortable. But I am sure that they always go hand in hand with opportunities. And this is why I am standing here today: I want to take these opportunities together with you! Now is a great time for us to consider together the future path of the BfS. What should our primary – or indeed general – priorities be? By the end of 2017, the new structure will have been tried and tested and will be familiar to us all. By then, I would also like to have established a strategic course. The following points are particularly important to me here:

  1. As a departmental research facility, the BfS can provide good policy consultancy only if the scientific basis is correct. I am delighted that we are built on firm foundations, that the BfS, with its scientific and technical expertise, has a great reputation. The Council of Science and Humanities evaluated the BfS most recently in 2014 and confirmed this. The task now is to maintain these specialist skills in the medium and long term and adapt them to new requirements.

  2. The BfS must also be prepared to tackle new topics in the fields of the best possible precautionary consumer and health protection. On all accounts, it must pose critical questions and find new answers. In social change processes, it should develop and propose suitable solutions for everyday life and should be an active supporter of these processes. The BfS already has good experience of contributing to dialogue, for example regarding radiation protection in the expansion of the power network. We should build on this and continue to initiate and maintain conversations with the people around us.

  3. Cooperation and networking with our many partners, nationally and internationally, are of crucial importance to me. These should be continued intensively and – where meaningful or required – be expanded. Close positive collaboration with the BMUB is particularly important to me in this context.

New topics and current developments

And which topics will the new president pursue? Many of you no doubt wish to ask this question. Before establishing these firmly, I would first like to get to know the business, the employees and the topics.

We must also keep in sight a whole range of current developments, not least in the context of the new radiation protection legislation. Examples of this include the increasing digitalisation and its consequences in all areas of life, the energy revolution and radiation protection in the expansion of the power network, developments in medicine, particularly as regards increasing individualisation, and the further development of nuclear emergency protection.

Please understand that these topics are purely initial considerations. Developing a strategic programme for the BfS will require a great many in-depth discussions.

Developing future goals together

Finally a few words about our collaboration, both with external partners but most particularly between employees within the BfS: I truly value open discussion. I will listen to you and learn from you, and develop our future goals together with you. For all of you – and for staff representatives – my door is always open and I am all ears for your suggestions.

It is very important to me to take time to get to know you all and I am making a start right away: tomorrow and the day after, Wolfram König and I will visit you together in Freiburg and Munich to start this process. In the coming weeks we will also visit Berlin. I will come to Bonn and Rendsburg as soon as possible.

To ensure success, I am looking to your cooperation, your support and your loyalty. This is what I ask of you – this is what I rely on. I look forward to working at the BfS and collaborating with you all.

Many thanks!

State of 2017.04.27

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