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Development of new technologies for radiological emergency management

23.12.2020

As part of the EMPIR project “Remote and real-time optical detection of alpha-emitting radionuclides in the environment,” known as RemoteALPHA, a new detection system and a new metrological infrastructure are being developed that will use radioluminescence to optically detect alpha emitters in the environment. This project, which was launched on 1 September 2020 and is being coordinated by PTB, will enable a faster, better organized and more effective response to emergency situations involving the dispersion of alpha‑emitting radionuclides in the environment.

The release of alpha‑emitting radionuclides into the environment caused, for example, by an act of nuclear terrorism, a transportation accident, or by a severe accident in a nuclear installation, represents one of the most serious radiological threats faced by humankind. Though it is true that these alpha emitters have a short propagation distance and can be effectively shielded, their radiobiological effectiveness is very great if the particles do enter the body. In order to protect people against alpha particles, it is important to know how far the contamination has spread. To date, however, only near‑field and resource‑intensive measurements of alpha radiation have been possible. A detection system for the rapid measurement of large‑scale contamination with alpha‑emitting radionuclides is currently not available. The only possible response to an emergency of this type is to evacuate the population from the affected areas. Radiation measurements must then be conducted by emergency teams using hand‑held devices. Such work requires not only a great deal of time and effort, it also exposes the team members themselves to significant risk.

The primary objective of the current project is to develop novel types of optical systems for the remote detection and quantification of large‑area contamination with alpha emitters. The intended method does not involve the direct measurement of alpha rays but rather the measurement of the long‑range ultraviolet radiation (radioluminescence) produced through the interaction of alpha particles with air.

Specific objectives include the development of the following: the prototype of a mobile outdoor UV detection system for the real‑time radioluminescence mapping of alpha sources in the environment; a suitable UV radiation standard; well‑characterized alpha‑active environmental samples (mineral phase, soil, organic and plant samples doped with alpha particle emitters); and a validated calibration scheme for such novel types of optical systems. The instruments and methods developed in this project will support on‑site incident management, evacuation planning, and the development of strategies for protecting the population from harm. The project will thus serve to underpin the emergency management system described in EU Directive 2013/59/EURATOM.

Links:

Opens external link in new windowWebsite of the RemoteALPHA project

Opens external link in new windowWebsite of the related supportBSS project

Opens external link in new windowsupportBSS Newsletter

Contact:

Opens local program for sending emailF. Krasniqi, Department 6.3, Working Group 6.32