What is the radiation protection of a nuclear power plant

Radiation protection: This is why the new radiation protection ordinance is also relevant for your company

The new Radiation Protection Ordinance has been in force since the beginning of 2019 - and that should also interest you. Because even if you do not handle nuclear fuel or other radiation sources, the Radiation Protection Ordinance can be relevant for your company. The damaging ionizing radiation can also have a natural origin that you have not previously expected. And then you, as an employer, have a duty to protect your employees.

Radiation protection is and will remain a relevant topic in the professional field. The updated Radiation Protection Ordinance is intended to ensure improved protection against ionizing and non-ionizing radiation. It also defines protective measures and specifications in more detail. A special focus is on ionizing radiation, such as radon, which can cause serious damage to health.

Basics of radiation protection

Basically - and for the legal delimitation of ionizing, radioactive radiation - a distinction is made between two forms of radiation.

Ionizing radiation

The essential part of the actual Radiation Protection Ordinance is made up of the provisions for protection against the harmful effects of ionizing, i.e. radioactive radiation. This includes, for example, X-rays. They contain requirements for protection against radon in living and work rooms as well as for occupational and medical radiation protection.

Ionizing radiation can trigger different effects:

  • deterministic effects: direct effects that usually cause immediate damage to tissues and organs and occur above a threshold value for the radiation dose
  • stochastic effects: no defined threshold values, occur later and trigger stochastic radiation damage to the genetic material.

The aim of statutory radiation protection is to reliably prevent deterministic radiation effects with the aid of limit values ​​for the radiation dose. The risk of stochastic effects should be kept as low as possible by means of appropriate specifications.

Non-ionizing radiation

Beyond the narrower scope of the StrlSchV, radiation protection is being supplemented primarily by the introduction of the “Ordinance on the protection against the harmful effects of non-ionizing radiation when used on humans” (NiSV). It regulates the operation of systems for cosmetic or other non-medical purposes.

This includes, among other things

  • Ultrasound equipment
  • laser
  • Devices that generate electromagnetic fields, e.g. B. televisions or cell phones
Non-ionizing radiation only generates light or heat due to a lower amount of energy.

In the case of non-ionizing radiation, experience has shown that the number of companies affected is very large that see this as being relevant to their work processes or systems. But what is the situation with ionizing radiation, which is mainly caused by radioactive substances? Here, too, more companies are affected than is generally known.

These are the basics of radiation protection measures in Germany

Damage to health caused by ionizing or radioactive radiation is particularly insidious because it is unpredictable and cannot be perceived by the human senses. The long-term, stochastic effects, which are much more difficult to assess than the direct deterministic radiation damage, are particularly feared.

The radiation protection measures are intended to reliably prevent deterministic radiation effects and reduce the risk of stochastic effects to a reasonably achievable level. In the case of deterministic hazards, this is in principle implemented quickly: only reliable dose limit values ​​have to be set and observed so that deterministic effects are excluded.

Radiation protection for stochastic effects is much more complicated: The three commandments of radiation protection

In order to keep the risk of stochastic damage from ionizing radiation as low as possible in accordance with StrlSchV, three general principles for dealing with ionizing radiation have been defined in radiation protection. The X-rays present in medical applications are not taken into account in the following illustrations.

The principles, which are based on scientific facts and the requirements of the EU (Directive 2013/59 / Euratom), focus on these three commandments:

  • justification
  • Dose limit
  • optimization

That is what the commandment of justification says

No new use of ionizing radiation or any new use of radioactive substances by humans may take place without this being justified by comprehensible reasons.

The justification requirement also includes

  • People who are exposed to existing radiation exposure through a new occupational activity, e. B. cosmic radiation from flights or radiation from radon in mining or in waterworks
  • the requirement to regularly and critically examine existing activities on the basis of new findings
  • the exception to expose employees to radiation if the benefit of the activity for society outweighs the potential health damage caused by the activity.

It is obvious that justification is often difficult in practice. Because neither benefit nor possible damage to health can be determined objectively in each case. Therefore, the requirement of justification is a first major hurdle for new activities in question and requires a coherent argumentation on the part of the company.

The requirement to limit the dose already calls for first measures

Even if activities that lead to radiation exposure are justified, the radiation doses must comply with certain limit values ​​for radiation exposure. These limit values ​​are defined differently for occupational activities and the general population.

The limit values ​​for the population stipulate the maximum amount in which individuals may be exposed to radiation during their activity (for example through the operation of a nuclear power plant).

The legislature differentiates between different exposure paths or possible effects of radiation:

  • Inhalation (inhalation)
  • Ingestion with food (ingestion) or
  • the ambient radiation

The dose limitation takes into account all possible exposure paths and summarizes the individual limit values ​​according to scientific conditions.

For occupational radiation exposure, however, the limit values ​​are determined in more detail and according to different dimensions.

In these cases, the dose limit takes into account

  • the effect of radiation on the whole body and also on body organs
  • different time periods (month, year, professional life) and
  • different groups of people such as adolescents, adults, women of childbearing age and pregnant women

The principle of optimization calls for continuous improvement

The principle of optimization requires ongoing consideration of the state of science and research. In this way, the existing radiation protection measures can be continuously improved in order to better reduce and avoid radiation exposure and contamination.

Every measure that is feasible on the basis of the current state of technical knowledge and all relevant economic and social factors must be implemented in order to

  • the likelihood of exposure,
  • the number of people at risk and
  • the individual dose acting on a person

as low as is reasonably achievable.

This requirement is known internationally as the “As Low As Reasonably Achievable” (ALARA) principle. According to the ALARA principle, the limit value must be kept as low as possible, even if the limit value is already being observed.

There is no harmlessness to health

The three commandments of radiation protection show that the legislature has not provided for the harmlessness of ionizing radiation. Even if you dutifully adhere to all the commandments, there is usually a residual dose of radiation that always involves health risks. In concrete terms, this means that every radiation is associated with a potential impairment to health, which, however, also decreases with decreasing dose.

This principle leads to a positive development: In practice, it can increasingly be observed that the radiation exposure that occurs in almost all measured cases is well below the legally stipulated limit values.

But where are the legal limits for radiation exposure?

As an entrepreneur, you will be less interested in the limit value for the general public, unless you are active in one of the few industries that are responsible for publicly released radioactive radiation.

Limit values ​​for individuals in the population

The limit value for the effective dose that is allowed to act on individual members of the population must be complied with by all nuclear or other facilities that emit ionizing radiation.

That includes

  • Radiation exposure on an individual: 1 millisievert per calendar year
  • Radiation exposure from a single facility via the wastewater and exhaust air exposure pathways: each 0.3 millisievert per year
  • Radiation from natural sources: no limit value set

Limit values ​​for people who are exposed to radiation for work-related reasons

The limit values ​​for occupationally exposed persons are more important for employers. Because the employer is responsible for compliance with them.

  • The limit value for the radiation dose to which an employee in your company may be exposed is 20 millisieverts per calendar year.
  • In exceptional cases and approved by the competent authority, the limit value can also be increased to 50 millisievert if it does not exceed 100 millisievert in the course of five calendar years.
  • In any case, the working life dose, i.e. the radiation exposure of an employee during their entire working life, must not exceed 400 millisieverts.

Stricter dose limits for special groups of people

  • Women of childbearing age: Up to the age of 49 years (according to the definition of the Federal Statistical Office) the organ equivalent dose of the uterus may only be a maximum of 2 millisieverts per month.
  • In pregnant women, the limit value for the unborn child is 1 millisievert from the time of notification to the end of the pregnancy.
  • For people under the age of 18 in training, the limit of 1 millisievert per year applies.
  • For educational purposes, the competent authority can set a limit of 6 millisieverts for 16 to 18 year olds if this is necessary.

In the case of radiation exposure that only affects parts of the body, the Radiation Protection Act also stipulates limit values ​​for individual organs, as described in Section 78 (2) of the Radiation Protection Act.

Overview of limit and dose values

In order to be able to estimate the radiation exposure of your employees and to classify radiation exposure according to size, you should compare the typical dose values ​​in the following table with the activities in your company:

The table shows that a pregnant woman has already reached the maximum annual radiation dose after 10 long-haul flights. If this comparison is still a notable problem for very few employers, the situation with radiation exposure from natural radon can be quite different.

Because indoor radiation exposure can quickly exceed the limit value for pregnant women or underage trainees of 1 mSv per year if your company is located in a risk area in central, southern or eastern Germany. In extreme cases, the radiation dose from radon can even be 200 mSv per year, which even exceeds the limit value for adults by 10 times.

Current legal situation in radiation protection and what it means for your company

On December 31, 2018, the Federal Cabinet passed the "Ordinance on the further modernization of radiation protection law" with an updated "Ordinance on the protection against the harmful effects of ionizing radiation" (referred to for short as the Radiation Protection Ordinance - StrlSchV). It now also contains the regulations that were previously regulated in the X-ray Ordinance (RöV).

Therefore, the old RöV was suspended at the beginning of the year. The aim of the new StrlSchV, which is based on the Atomic Energy Act, is to improve health protection against ionizing and non-ionizing radiation. In this way, the StrlSchV specifies the requirements of the Radiation Protection Act, which was passed a year earlier.

These are the most important provisions of the new Radiation Protection Ordinance at a glance

The new StrlSchV focuses on requirements for occupational and medical radiation protection, but also contains new requirements for the protection of the population. The StrlSchV is divided into several sections, which in turn lead to new ordinances or to amendments to existing ordinances. The ordinance on protection against the harmful effects of ionizing radiation, i.e. the actual Radiation Protection Ordinance (StrlSchV), is primarily relevant for companies.

For non-ionizing radiation, which also affects many companies, the “Ordinance on protection against non-ionizing radiation when used on humans (NiSV)” was issued as a supplement. Both ordinances complement each other in terms of protecting employees and the general public.

The extensive changes in radiation protection always affect companies

  • if employees or customers are exposed to radiation,
  • Radiation emanates from products or
  • the operating facilities are located in areas with high levels of natural radon radiation.

This means that, for example, the following applications have been covered by the regulation:

  • X-ray machines, e.g. B. for medical early detection but also such devices for security control
  • Irradiation facilities in laboratories or in research and for the medical treatment of diseases
  • Manufacture of products such as B. clocks or measuring devices that use radioactive radiation or building materials that emit natural radiation. This also includes various building materials that have higher concentrations of radon such as B. chemical gypsums made from the residues of processed phosphorite and lightweight concretes made from alum slate
  • Certain activities at oil and gas production facilities, at water suppliers or in the context of geothermal energy, which could potentially expose employees or customers to radiation
  • Disposal of radioactive or radioactive waste
  • As part of the NiSV, the use of non-ionizing radiation is also regulated, such as B. with lasers or ultrasound or in medical practice, cosmetics or the removal of tattoos can be found.

Above all, the new legal relevance of natural radon radiation makes it clear that, in addition to the operational processes, environmental conditions at your location can justify the applicability of the regulation without your knowing it. Therefore, the new StrlSchV means that almost all companies have to operate with their own operating locations.

You should definitely check these three new or changed aspects for your company

Most of the previous regulations of the old radiation protection and X-ray ordinance have been adopted or slightly adapted. Three major changes increase the scope, the number of people affected and the associated necessary measures:

1. Protection of employees from radon in buildings

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that can penetrate from the ground through foundations into buildings and accumulate there. The new protection regulations against this gas are based on its dangerous effects on health. Because inhaling radon is one of the greatest risks of developing lung cancer, along with smoking.

For the first time, the StrlSchV in Germany enacted regulations on protection against radon in buildings. They apply in the so-called radon prevention areas, for which a considerable risk has been determined that the radon concentration in buildings will exceed 300 Becquerel per cubic meter. These areas will be determined and designated by the federal states by 2020 based on the criteria of the StrlSchV.

The background to the limit value of 300 Bq / m³ is the calculated radiation exposure from radon. Because 300 Bq / m³ cause an annual radiation exposure of 18 mSv, which is then only slightly below the limit value for adults. The ordinance provides for numerous measures to ensure compliance with the limit values.

Must be within the precautionary areas

  • In addition to moisture protection, further protective measures are used to prevent or make it considerably more difficult for radon to enter the building. This only applies to new buildings.
  • Measurements of the radon concentration in the air can be carried out from workplaces on the ground floor or in the basement. To do this, you must obtain suitable equipment from a body recognized by the Federal Office for Radiation Protection or commission suitable specialist companies.
  • Protective measures are taken if the measurements show that the reference values ​​of 300 Becquerel per cubic meter (Bq / m³) are exceeded.

2. Protection against radon in building products

If you place certain construction products on the market, you need to determine the activity index of some types of radiation before selling them. The specified reference values ​​must not be exceeded under any circumstances.

Are affected

  • acid igneous rocks,
  • Travertine,
  • Sandstone with a high organic content such as oil, copper and alum shale.

3. Occupational health and safety measures when a need is identified

These changes affect both companies that have already been affected by the Radiation Protection and X-ray Ordinance in the past and companies that are now subject to the StrlSchV due to points 1 and 2.

At the same time, however, the innovations in employee protection also expand the scope of the companies concerned:

  • There are now expanded reporting obligations for people who use systems for generating ionizing radiation.
  • Recently, employees in the natural gas industry, geothermal energy or water supply who are exposed to increased natural radiation (e.g. radon) have to be instructed.
  • Until now, written work instructions on radiation protection only had to be created for frequent applications. In the future, this must also be done for rare applications.
  • In the case of radiation treatment in medicine, a risk analysis must be carried out in future before a treatment process is used.
  • For each person involved in a research project, individual exposure assessments must be made.
  • All devices affected by the regulation require additional documents as a product description
  • The situation is to be monitored by a supervisory program with regular on-site inspections depending on the type and extent of the risk.
  • If you employ employees who are subject to monitoring under radiation protection law, you will have to register them in the radiation protection register at the Federal Office for Radiation Protection.

Radiation protection therefore concerns significantly more companies than is commonly assumed. You should therefore also take the time to analyze the topic for your company. The background is quickly researched, and an initial assessment of the relevance can usually be given in an uncomplicated manner. The following in-depth information will help you understand and implement the legal side.

You have to take this into account in order to protect your employees from radiation from radon

Protection against radon is the most noticed change in the new StrlSchV. For this purpose, the ordinance provides for various measures to protect the health of your employees in areas with high levels of radon. The most important regulations affect commercial and private building owners differently.

After the federal states had determined by the end of 2020 in accordance with the Radiation Protection Act in which areas a high radon concentration is to be expected within buildings, the regulations for different building types apply in these regions.

This includes the following regulations:

  • For private, already existing residential buildings, it is up to the owners and residents themselves whether they voluntarily take measures to reduce the radon concentration in the building.
  • In the case of new buildings, however, everyone, including private builders, is obliged to take structural measures to ensure that radon cannot penetrate the building.
  • If the concentration of radon in workplaces is more than 300 Becquerel per cubic meter (Bq / m³), ​​the employer must take measures to reduce the radon concentration in the building.

You have to do this if your business location is in an area with high radon concentrations

The employer is responsible. As soon as the competent authority - usually the environmental or trade supervisory authorities - have identified the risk areas, i.e. by 2020 at the latest, you should work through 3 steps in order to remain legally secure.

This includes:

  1. Check whether your business location is in one of the risk areas identified by the authorities.
    Or does your company belong to one of the sectors whose workplaces are often accompanied by high radon concentrations, such as B. Mines or waterworks? Then you have to take action in any case, regardless of whether the jobs are in a risk area or not.
  2. If so, you need to have measurements taken.
    The measurements are taken at the workplaces, in all basement rooms and on the ground floor. Please note that only those measurements are valid that
    • were carried out with measuring devices that have undergone an approval procedure at the Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS) and which
    • were carried out by a service provider who was also recognized by the BfS.
  3. If the values ​​measured at the workplaces exceed the limit of 300 Bq / m³, you must take measures to reduce radiation. This applies in any case, even if it concerns special workplaces where high radon concentrations can often occur, for example in mines and in certain waterworks.

The measures that are suitable for lowering the radon concentration in buildings can be varied - depending on the condition of the building and the structure of the building, e.g. B .:

  • a ventilation system
  • Refurbishment of leaks in the lower building envelope

Above all, the thermal insulation measures carried out in recent years are now becoming the undoing of many building owners. Because before and after measurements have shown that thermal insulation on the building can increase the radon concentration at the workplace by a factor of ten.

In the case of new buildings, on the other hand, the costs for radon-safe construction are less significant and are generally forecast at 50 - 100 € per square meter to be built on.

The Radiation Protection Ordinance also affects building owners without their own employees. Even if you are not an employer, the StrlSchV can cause you major problems when simply renting or leasing buildings. Because courts are increasingly accepting high levels of radon as a reason for rent reductions.

Occupational radiation protection - when radiation exposure cannot be avoided

In some professional fields of activity it cannot be avoided that employees are exposed to ionizing radiation. In Germany this is at least 440,000 people, i.e. around 1 percent of the workforce.

Affected people work, for example

  • with X-ray machines,
  • Equipment for material testing,
  • enclosed highly radioactive sources or
  • unsealed radioactive substances.

Employees with high radiation exposure are subject to occupational radiation protection monitoring by the federal states

Certain groups of people must be officially monitored with the new Radiation Protection Ordinance.

This includes

  • Employees who deal with artificial radiation sources, e.g. B. X-rays in medicine, nuclear technology, research and development departments in commercial operations in industry and commerce
  • Employees who are exposed to increased natural terrestrial radiation, radiation from natural radioactive substances or cosmically induced cosmic radiation, e.g. B. in waterworks, in mining, show caves and spas or in passenger and cargo planes

Aim of radiation protection monitoring

Radiation protection monitoring is intended to ensure that the employees concerned are prevented from exceeding the limit values ​​for their annual or working life dose of radiation exposure. This should be done centrally and across employers.

Responsible at federal level

The Federal Office for Radiation Protection operates the radiation protection register as a central federal institution. However, enforcement and monitoring are the responsibility of the federal states. The responsible state authorities operate the measuring points for this and implement the statutory provisions in practice.

That is why your employees now need a radiation protection register number

So far, the personal data for radiation protection monitoring have been brought together solely on the basis of various personal data. Incompletely transmitted personal data, typographical errors, name changes or different spellings often caused allocation errors that could lead to incorrect calculations of the annual and life-time dose.

The organization of radiation protection monitoring changed somewhat in 2019 with the new StrlSchV. The most important innovation for occupational radiation protection is the introduction of a unique personal identification number for occupationally exposed persons: the radiation protection register number (SSR number).

Advantage of the radiation protection register number

These allocation errors should be avoided in the future with a unique personal identification number. What has been done in other European countries for a long time was previously not possible in Germany due to a lack of data protection principles, but has now been implemented with the new StrlSchV.

With the SSR number, the individual dose values ​​from occupational radiation exposure can now be clearly assigned and balanced in the radiation protection register. The previous radiation pass number is no longer required.

Apply for your own SSR number as soon as possible

The individual personal SSR number is derived from the social security number and the personal data of the employee to be monitored using non-traceable encryption. The Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS) is responsible for this.

The SSR number can only be requested by the employer or the company radiation protection officer. He transmits the necessary personal data to the BfS, taking into account the data formats required by the BfS. You can get help with the application and the format requirements in the BfS internet portal.

Address of the SSR portal to apply for the radiation protection register number.

In this way, radiation exposure and compliance with dose limits are monitored

In order to monitor occupational radiation exposure, the state authorities determine several personal dose measuring points and incorporation measuring points that measure or calculate every relevant radiation exposure and aggregate it in a person-related manner. As a rule, the measuring points transmit the dose determinations to the BfS radiation protection register on a monthly basis and, for pilots and flight personnel, to the Federal Aviation Office. The reports are then merged in the radiation protection register on the basis of the SSR number and evaluated with regard to compliance with the dose limit values.

A distinction is made between different areas in order to monitor occupational radiation exposure:

Other areas that require monitoring are

  • Companies with significantly increased exposure to natural terrestrial radiation sources, such as spas, waterworks, show caves or mines
  • Work on the decommissioning and renovation of the facilities and facilities of the uranium ore mining

International radiation protection monitoring - an outlook

Globalization is also particularly noticeable in labor mobility: More and more people are changing their jobs within Europe or even worldwide. This also applies to people who are exposed to ionizing radiation at work. A nationwide, cross-border occupational radiation protection can unfortunately not yet adequately take this development into account, as it is only being set up.

In the medium term, we can safely expect that the personal radiation dose can also be documented and monitored in international missions. Today, however, everyone is still responsible for independently monitoring their own radiation exposure from different employers in different countries or transferring them to the national German radiation register.

In these cases you need a radiation pass

In some cases, it is not sufficient to monitor the radiation dose of individual persons using the radiation protection register, as the activities require greater transparency of the dose values.

This is especially the case with external personnel in control areas monitored by radiation protection. Such employees work in external facilities as craftsmen, cleaning or assembly workers, as consultants or in other highly specialized activities.

These people need a valid radiation pass with the following information:

  • personal information such as name and address
  • Information on preventive medical check-ups
  • Information on external and internal radiation exposure as well as
  • Balancing of previous occupational exposure and the occupational life dose recorded in the radiation protection register

The passport must be presented to the commissioning company before each use in order to rule out any possible exceeding of limit values. After finishing the activity, the company enters the additional radiation exposure measured by the dosimeter in the radiation pass.

The radiation pass is issued by the authorized registration authorities of the federal states. Usually these are the trade supervisory authorities.

Qualifications of a radiation protection officer

Some activities in the handling of radioactive substances and ionizing radiation require recognized specialist knowledge in radiation protection. For this purpose, the radiation protection regulations require that every license holder appoints radiation protection officers. These can be technicians, scientists, doctors or the like. But the radiation protection officer also needs specialist knowledge as a qualification in order to be able to carry out his demanding tasks.

What are the requirements?

The legislator in the StrlSchV regulates the requirements for basic and advanced training in radiation protection. For the recognized specialist knowledge, learning objectives, course content and the duration of the required practical work experience are regulated as well as examinations, certificates and the recognition of the radiation protection qualification by the responsible authorities.

The essential requirements are:

  • Appropriate training and further education in radiation protection depending on the type of radiation application, previous qualifications and the radiation protection tasks to be performed,
  • corresponding practical work experience, which must be between a few months and up to three years, depending on the task and
  • Task-specific radiation protection courses lasting from a few days to a few weeks, ending with an examination. These courses must be recognized by the competent authorities.

You can acquire specialist knowledge at these locations

Providers of such training are universities, private institutes or state ministries. If you are interested in such training or further education, make sure that the radiation protection course is approved in accordance with the specialist knowledge guidelines of the respective ordinance (X-ray ordinance or radiation protection ordinance). Since this approval is only granted for a limited period, you should definitely check whether the deadline has already expired.

Expertise of the radiation protection officer during Corona

Due to the current pandemic, the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, advised by the Radiation Protection Commission (SSK), has eased the requirements for specialist knowledge in radiation protection. In the medical field in particular, a lack of staff with regard to radiological care should be counteracted.

The relaxations include the following:

  • practical experience is reduced to half the specialist time required in the area of ​​application
  • Completion of the basic course in radiation protection is sufficient
This regulation allows doctors in training to carry out diagnostics with X-rays. These two aspects are considered to be exception rules that only apply during the crisis situation.

FAQ - The most important questions about radiation protection

How can you be protected from radioactive rays?

In addition to appropriate protective clothing such as respiratory masks, operational limit values ​​are to be set and dose values ​​to be determined and checked.

Why is radiation protection important?

Radiation protection is important to prevent harmful effects and to preserve health in the long term.

Which limit should not be exceeded?

Persons belonging to the general public should not exceed an annual limit of 1 millisievert. A limit of 20 millisieverts per year applies to people who are exposed to ionizing radiation for work-related reasons.

Which institution is responsible for monitoring occupational radiation exposure of people?

The state authorities determine measuring points that forward the recorded values ​​to the Federal Office for Radiation Protection or, for flight personnel, to the Federal Office of Aviation.

When does professional knowledge of radiation protection have to be renewed?

Radiation protection officers must update their specialist knowledge every 5 years.

Author: Editorial Team Safety Xperts