The Integrated Measuring and Information System (IMIS) for monitoring radioactivity in the environment

General environmental monitoring

Radioactivity in the environment is monitored in the Federal Republic of Germany around the clock. The nuclear accident in Chernobyl demonstrated how crucial it is to have a suitable early warning and measuring system which permits the quick detection of potential contamination and continuous measurement. If need be, pre-emptive measures to protect the population can be introduced based on exact and targeted information.

The Integrated Measuring and Information System for monitoring radioactivity in the environment (IMIS) was developed for this purpose.

  • The system ensures continuous and comprehensive monitoring of radioactivity in the environment around the clock and provides a complete picture of the contamination situation in Germany at any time.
  • Technology allows data collected in monitoring networks and measuring systems to be merged into a central database for the purpose of recording, summarising, processing and documenting data centrally.

After several years of development, the system was put into operation in 1993 by the Federal Office for Radiation Protection (Bundesamt für Strahlenschutz, BfS). In April 2005, the original IMIS IT system was replaced by an up-to-date system that has since undergone continuous development.

Responsibilities

The measuring task is shared between the Federation and the Länder. The environmental media air and water, which can transport radioactivity on a large scale, are constantly monitored by stationary, continuously working measuring networks. These include:

  • 48 measuring stations for detecting the activity concentration in the air and precipitation, operated by the Deutscher Wetterdienst (National Meteorological Service, DWD)
  • 40 measuring stations for federal waterways, operated by the Federal Institute of Hydrology (Bundesanstalt für Gewässerkunde)
  • 13 measuring stations for detecting the activity concentration in the coastal waters of the Baltic and North Seas, operated by the Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency (Bundesamt für Seeschifffahrt und Hydrographie) and
  • 1,800 measuring stations for detecting the gamma dose rate (the level of radiation close to the ground), operated by the Federal Office for Radiation Protection.

Environmental media in which radioactive material can deposit and accumulate are monitored by measuring stations operated by the Länder. These include:

  • Food, include milk and dairy products,
  • Feedstuff,
  • Drinking water and groundwater,
  • Soil,
  • Plants,
  • Medicines and
  • Waste, waste water and sewage sludge

The Länder stations use a targeted sampling method to collect measurements.

All measuring data are subject to a two-fold plausibility check with a plausibility control by the measurement transmitter and a synoptic plausibility check by the coordinating offices of the Federation for monitoring radioactivity in the environment. The coordinating offices check plausibility on the basis of radioecological correlations using the measured values from other environmental media. Coordinating offices are specialised laboratories within the Federation’s technical agencies focused on certain environmental media.