National Physical Laboratory

NPL e-Learning Programme

Metrology for Radiological Early Warning Networks in Europe

Metrology for Radiological Early Warning Networks in Europe


Radiological emergencies, such as the nuclear accidents at Chernobyl in 1986, and Fukushima Daiichi in 2011, can have disastrous consequences. During such an emergency, early knowledge of radioactivity concentrations in air, and subsequently the assessment of contamination levels of farmland and of dose rate levels in urban areas, are of key importance for organising sound countermeasures for the protection of the general public.

When such events have trans-boundary implications, reliable monitoring data are a prerequisite for adequate environmental radiation monitoring in Europe. In particular, data from different national networks are desired to be comparable; currently this is not the case, because the measuring systems, methods used and the data processing approaches differ between EU Member States. This means that during a trans-boundary nuclear incident contradictory decisions may be taken in different countries.

Therefore, improvements are needed in the metrology of fundamental radiological quantities, such as radioactivity concentrations in air and ground contamination levels, within monitoring networks. The EMRP Project 'ENV57 MetroERM: Metrology for radiological early warning networks in Europe' has been undertaken to fulfil this need. As a result, this e-learning course is intended to:

  • Provide recommendations for good practice for operators of radiological early warning networks
  • Provide for the general public a level of understanding of radiological early warning networks, which will allow generation of informed opinions on the issues concerned

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Main objectives

  • Describe the need for radiological early warning networks, and their current limitations
  • Understand the physics and metrology principles underpinning the operation of radiological early warning networks
  • Describe the expected impact of the MetroERM project
  • Describe the operation, calibration, data collection and validation associated with a range of new technologies for measurement of dose rate and radioactivity concentration in air

Learning objectives (Module 1 – introductory)

  • Describe the factors affecting the siting of a network station
  • Differentiate between the types of ionising radiation
  • Define the physical, protection and operational quantities involved in measuring dose rate and activity
  • Compare and contrast types of detector
  • Outline the history of the use of radioactive materials and nuclear power
  • Describe the need for the MetroERM project

Learning objectives (Modules 2–3 – outcomes of the project)

  • Describe the current state of the art in measurement of dose rate and activity concentration in air
  • Describe new technology developed as part of the MetroERM project
  • Explain how the new measurement systems improve upon the state of the art
  • Describe the characterisation and calibration of these new measurement systems
  • Describe the collection and validation of data, as applied to these new measurement systems

Required prior knowledge

Module 1 is designed to require very little prior knowledge. It explains for the general public, and for those just entering the field, the background to the project and some of the underlying physical principles. Modules 2 and 3 are more technically detailed, and a background in nuclear metrology, while not essential, would be of benefit.

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