Radiation protection

Current information on radiation protection, licensing requirements for practices involving radiation sources, radiation protection register, notification obligations, etc.

Information for newcomers

Where practices are carried out in an undertaking in which radiation sources may cause increased exposure of workers to radiation, the health of such persons must be protected as far as possible. Examples of radiation sources are equipment which generate ionising radiation, such as X-ray devices, on the one hand, and radioactive substances which emit ionising radiation on the other.

In order to protect the health of these persons as far as possible, there are legal regulations, compliance with which is primarily the responsibility of the companies concerned. The basic principles of these regulations are that the use of ionising radiation must be justified in all cases and that radiation exposure for humans and the environment must be kept as low as reasonably possible. An application is justified if the benefits outweigh the disadvantages and risks.

On the basis of an EU directive, the entire radiation protection legislation has been revised. These new legal requirements entered into force in the year 2020.

An essential innovation is that the previous distinction between the use of artificial radiation sources ("handling radiation sources") and activities in which natural radiation sources in work processes can lead to increased radiation exposure ("working with radiation sources") has been dropped. The term "practice" replaces the handling or work term.

Like the term "handling", the term "practice" in radiation protection law is now also very broadly defined. In particular, practices are to be regarded as:

  • The operation of radiation generators and
  • The manufacture, production, processing, handling, disposal, use, storage and transport of radioactive materials, whether they contain artificial or natural radioactive substances

However, the term practices does not include activities that cause exposure to radon or cosmic radiation.

In most cases, practices require a licence. Only practices that do not pose a health hazard are exempt from the licensing requirement. In such cases, however, the practice must usually be notified to the authorities.

Depending on the type and hazard potential of the intended practice, radiation protection law provides for different licensing procedures (one-step or two-step, see chapter "Activities involving radiation sources subject to authorisation"). In addition, there is the possibility of device-related approvals for devices (types) that are used in large quantities (see chapter "Type approvals").

In the notice of decision granting the licence, the authority sets out specific requirements and conditions which the company must fulfil, in addition to the requirements of radiation protection law. An important health protection measure is the classification by the authority of those workers who could be exposed to increased radiation as exposed workers. A distinction is made here between Category A (higher risk potential) and Category B (lower risk potential) workers. This classification means that the company must arrange for special protection and monitoring measures for these persons. Examples are the wearing of a personal dosimeter, periodic briefings, written work instructions and, in the case of Category A classification, an additional annual medical examination. 

Certain practices within the scope of the licence require separate approval by the radiation protection authority. These include, among others:

In order to enable the radiation protection authority to control the proper fulfilment of the requirements, the licence holder has to fulfil a number of notification obligations to the authorities or the central radiation protection registers. In addition, the authority is to carry out periodic on-site inspections at all companies that are subject to official controls.

There are some specific provisions for the protection of workers and the general public in the case of natural radiation sources:

Please note

The main legal requirements for practicess involving radiation sources and for the protection of flying personnel are laid down in the Strahlenschutzgesetz 2020 (Radiation Protection Act 2020 – StrSchG 2020) and the Allgemeine Strahlenschutzverordnung 2020 (General Radiation Protection Ordinance 2020 – AllgStrSchV 2020). For medical applications, the provisions of the Medizinische Strahlenschutzverordnung (Medical Radiation Protection Ordinance – MedStrSchV) must also be observed.

In addition to the StrSchG 2020, the Radonschutzverordnung (Radon Protection Ordinance – RnV) is particularly relevant for radon protection.

Further Links

Legal Basis

Last update: 20 February 2023

Responsible for the content: Federal Ministry for Climate Action, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology