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 legistaltion 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 (referred to as "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 and that in future the term "practice" will replace 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:

  1. The operation of radiation generators and
  2. 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 alicence. Only practices that de facto do not pose a health hazard are exempt from the licensing requirement (section 7 of the Allgemeine Strahlenschutzverordnung 2020); 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 "practices subject to licensing"). In addition, there is the possibility of device-related approvals for devices (types) that are used in large quantities ("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 in accordance with section 61 of the Strahlenschutzgesetz 2020 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:

  • The article "Radiation Protection from Natural Sources" deals with the protection of persons in connection with activities that are to be classified as "practices" and the protection of crew personnel in aircraft exposed to elevated cosmic radiation during flights.
  • The article "Radon Protection" deals with the protection of workers with regard to the natural noble gas radon.

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 and the Allgemeinen Strahlenschutzverordnung 2020. For medical applications, the provisions of the Medizinischen Strahlenschutzverordnung must also be observed.

In addition to the Strahlenschutzgesetz 2020, the Radonschutzverordnung is particularly relevant for radon protection.

Further Links

Legal Basis

Last update: 9 February 2021

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