Comprehensive analysis of non-governmental radiation networks published

Worker in hazard suit

EMPIR project helps extend ionizing radiation monitoring in Europe in the event of nuclear incident

Ionizing radiation is invisible to the human eye and also undetectable by any other organ of perception. However, especially at high doses, it can cause sickness, or even be fatal, to those exposed to it. In the event of a nuclear incident, protecting members of the public and emergency response workers is of paramount importance. An accurate knowledge of the amount and type of radiation present is also important to allow governments to make the appropriate decisions and introduce countermeasures.

There are many dosimetry network stations operated by the national governments in Europe providing dose rate data on an hourly basis. However, there are large areas in Europe that only have a low density of governmental early warning network stations – and some not covered at all.

One way to support early detection of the release of radioactivity in the environment (“contaminations”) is the use of radiation detectors by non-governmental networks – also called crowd-sourced radiological monitoring - but the accuracy and detection of radiation levels of these networks has not systematically been assessed. This may lead to a significant lack of information in case of a nuclear or radiological emergency.

Recently, the completed EMPIR project Metrology for mobile detection of ionising radiation following a nuclear or radiological incident (16ENV04, Preparedness) has delivered the most comprehensive analysis on the metrological relevance of non-governmental network data ever made. The project consortium examined 64 detectors - covering 16 different types of systems.  The relevant performance parameters of these were assessed for detecting natural radiation as well as artificial caesium-137 (Cs-137) radiation fields on the ground and included information on:

  • the detector's inherent background
  • energy dependence and linearity of the response
  • response to secondary cosmic radiation
  • the sensitivity to small increases of the dose rate
  • the stability of the detector's readings under different temperatures and humidity

The results of this work have been summarised in a 17-page open access article: Investigation into the performance of dose rate measurement instruments used in non-governmental networks.

Results of this comprehensive performance study of the feasibility of using the simple, light-weighted and cheap dose rate meters used in non-governmental networks will help compliment results from governmental detection networks – and help guide responses in the case of a nuclear or radiological emergency.

Stefan Neumaier (PTB) who coordinated the project said about the work:

“The very comprehensive study of dosimetry systems used in non-governmental dose rate monitoring networks revealed their high potential to compliment governmental networks in case of a major nuclear or radiological emergency. However, the most serious problem of dose rate measurements using such systems, the very strong energy dependence of their responses (overresponses of up to a factor of 7 very found!), should still be addressed by the manufacturers of the systems, by introducing appropriate energy compensation filters to their devices. This state-of-the-art procedure would solve the problem and significantly improve the accuracy of the measured dose rate data.”

This EMPIR project is co-funded by the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme and the EMPIR Participating States.

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