Nuclear Emergency Response

Changed on: 21.03.2017

The safety of the peaceful use of nuclear energy has been a much discussed topic for decades. While Germany has decided to exit from nuclear energy by 2021, new nuclear power plants are planned in other countries. But it is clear that the consequences of an accident can be devastating, as the meltdowns of Chernobyl and Fukushima have shown on 26.04.1986 and 11.03.2011, respectively. Since radioactive clouds know no national borders, there is a potential threat for Austria, too. Therefore a conscientious emergency planning is essential to keep the impact of radiological emergency situations on the population as low as possible.

Austrian Radiation Early Warning and Monitoring Network

An automatic nationwide measurement network for gamma radiation has been in operation for rapid detection and assessment of large-scale radioactive contaminations in Austria for more than 30 years. It was Europe's first automatic radiation measurement system and, with over 300 measurement stations, represents one of the world's densest monitoring networks. The measurement results are automatically transmitted to the head offices of federal and state governments every 10 minutes. The data from 111 monitoring stations is also available on the Radiation Protection website of the BMLFUW.


In addition, 10 air monitors are installed that automatically and continuously measure the alpha, beta and gamma rays of aerosols in the air. All readings from the Austrian Radiation Early Warning System are available online in both federal emergency control centres for radiation, which run in parallel in order to achieve a high degree of fail-safety.

The website of the BMLFUW provides additional information on the radiation early warning system.

For reliable detection of new emissions the radiation early warning system is complemented by the laboratory-based monitoring network of the AGES. At the facilities in Vienna, Linz, Graz and Innsbruck various monitoring tasks are carried out in specially equipped radiation protection laboratories. The main task is to determine even small increases of radioactivity in food (food control) and various environmental media such as air, precipitation, soil and surface water as well as in wastewater treatment plant discharges nationwide at any time.

The safety of the peaceful use of nuclear energy has been a much discussed topic for decades. While Germany has decided to exit from nuclear energy by 2021, new nuclear power plants are planned in other countries. But it is clear that the consequences of an accident can be devastating, as the meltdowns of Chernobyl and Fukushima have shown on 26.04.1986 and 11.03.2011, respectively. Since radioactive clouds know no national borders, there is a potential threat for Austria, too. Therefore a conscientious emergency planning is essential to keep the impact of radiological emergency situations on the population as low as possible.

Austrian Radiation Early Warning and Monitoring Network

An automatic nationwide measurement network for gamma radiation has been in operation for rapid detection and assessment of large-scale radioactive contaminations in Austria for more than 30 years. It was Europe's first automatic radiation measurement system and, with over 300 measurement stations, represents one of the world's densest monitoring networks. The measurement results are automatically transmitted to the head offices of federal and state governments every 10 minutes. The data from 111 monitoring stations is also available on the Radiation Protection website of the BMLFUW.


In addition, 10 air monitors are installed that automatically and continuously measure the alpha, beta and gamma rays of aerosols in the air. All readings from the Austrian Radiation Early Warning System are available online in both federal emergency control centres for radiation, which run in parallel in order to achieve a high degree of fail-safety.

The website of the BMLFUW provides additional information on the radiation early warning system.

For reliable detection of new emissions the radiation early warning system is complemented by the laboratory-based monitoring network of the AGES. At the facilities in Vienna, Linz, Graz and Innsbruck various monitoring tasks are carried out in specially equipped radiation protection laboratories. The main task is to determine even small increases of radioactivity in food (food control) and various environmental media such as air, precipitation, soil and surface water as well as in wastewater treatment plant discharges nationwide at any time.

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Sampling points of the laboratory-based monitoring network for environmental samples (Source: AGES GmbH)

In the event of a large-scale contamination a high number of measurements have to be carried out immediately. High-resolution gamma spectrometry and liquid scintillation spectrometry are used to determine the concentrations of radionuclides. In addition, the potential impact of such contaminations is evaluated and their temporal evolution is observed.

A special monitoring programme with respect to the NPP in Temelin (CZ) is carried out in collaboration with the Province of Upper Austria. A radio-ecological database has been created since 1992 by systematic yearly sampling of various environmental and food samples which allows any impact caused by the operation of Temelin NPP (CZ) to be detected.

Intervention plans of federal and state governments

The general intervention plan of the federal government as well as the intervention plans of the federal states are important instruments for the protection of the public in case of radioactive accidents.

The emergency management of the federal and state governments includes the following points:

•Participating organizations and their responsibilities
• Operation scheduling
• Reporting and alarm routes
• Assessment of radiological emergencies
• Intervention measures
• Information for/given to? the public
• Medical assistance

More information on the nuclear emergency planning can be found on the website of the BMLFUW.

The role of AGES in nuclear emergency management to protect the public

The radiation protection laboratories of AGES are prepared to process a large number of possibly highly contaminated samples in the event of an emergency (e.g. nuclear power plant accident) within a short period of time. The focus is on the organization of the laboratory during a nuclear emergency, the sample logistics, the protection of the employees and the prevention of cross-contamination. Emergency situation drills are exercised on a regular basis. The measurement results are transmitted to the competent authorities to serve as a basis for informing the public and for taking protective measures. Experts of the Division of Radiation Protection are also involved in the emergency preparedness planning at federal and provincial level.

Food inspections on radioactivity

An important path for the uptake of radionuclides in the human body is food intake. AGES performs a comprehensive monitoring of food to avoid highly contaminated food  getting on the table and to determine the annual ingestion dose.

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