Emergency response plans of the federal government and Länder pursuant to Radiation Protection Act

The provisions of the Radiation Protection Act (StrlSchG) on an emergency management system of the federal government and Länder entered into force on 1 October 2017. One significant reform in the field of emergency preparedness concerns the emergency response plans to be coordinated between the federal government and the Länder (sections 97- 101 StrlSchG). These plans must put all organisations involved in responding to an emergency in a position to take immediate coordinated decisions in cases of potential emergencies and to take appropriate measures to protect the population in a timely manner.

On this basis, the government’s general emergency response plan has to specify certain reference scenarios to provide a common basis for the federal government and Länder to plan appropriate responses to these and other potential emergencies. The general emergency response plan is to be further substantiated and supplemented with specific emergency response plans of the federal government for certain administrative and economic sectors.

The Länder will draw up general and specific emergency response plans for the reference scenarios to substantiate and supplement the federal plans as well as external emergency response plans for nuclear power plants and other facilities with particular hazard potential.

Until the federal government emergency response plans are adopted, the following recommendations of the German Commission on Radiological Protection shall be used provisionally as emergency response plans : “Basic Recommendations for Emergency Preparedness in the Vicinity of Nuclear Installations” and “Radiological Bases for Decisions on Measures for the Protection of the Population against Accidental Releases of Radionuclides” as well as other documents listed in Annex 4 to section 97 (5) of the StrlSchG.

Nuclear emergencies

To protect the public from the effects of an accidental release of radioactive substances, the German Commission on Radiological Protection (SSK) has produced decision-making tools and drawn up basic recommendations for disaster control.

The German Commission on Radiological Protection (SSK) and the Reactor Safety Commission (RSK) recommend a set of alert criteria to facilitate information-sharing between the authorities and particularly to ensure that nuclear facility operators alert the relevant authorities whenever necessary. The operator is required to establish alert regulations, which must include site-specific criteria applicable in the event of a release of radioactive substances that may cause adverse impacts on the environment. The regulations must also include specific technical criteria which, when reached, trigger an early warning or emergency alert to the relevant authorities.

The power plant manufacturer’s crisis team and Kerntechnische Hilfsdienst GmbH (KHG) are available to provide support. The manufacturer’s crisis team advises the operator on technical aspects of situation assessment and restoration of the facility to a safe state. KHG and its measuring equipment are deployed on- and off-site.

The disaster control authorities produce emergency plans for the area around the nuclear power plants. The aim of disaster control is to avoid or minimise any adverse effects on public health.

Emergency care centres will be set up to provide decontamination and initial medical services for the general public affected by a release of radioactive material, as well as for first response personnel.

The strategies and reference values defined in the Compendium of Measures to Reduce Radiation Exposure Following Events with not Insignificant Radiological Consequences (Catalogue of Countermeasures) are the technical basis for decision-making on short-term, medium-term and long-term measures.

The Basic Radiological Principles for Decisions on Measures for the Protection of the Population against Accidental Releases of Radionuclides and the Basic Recommendations for Emergency Preparedness in the Vicinity of Nuclear Installations describe in detail how, when and where appropriate measures are to be taken. Some foreign nuclear power plants are located near the German border. In such cases, the disaster control plans are coordinated with the relevant authorities in the countries concerned.