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How measurements work

ODL probe: Design / Maintenance

The ODL measuring network consists of stationary probes using cable connections for power supply and for the transmission of data. In addition, "quasi-stationary" probes are also available. These are mobile probes with an independent power supply. In the event of an incident, the measuring network can be reinforced by using these probes within a potentially affected area. This makes it possible to assess the radiological situation more accurately on a local level and to obtain a more precise overview of the situation.

Design and function of the probes

Design of an ODL probe Lupe Design of an ODL  probe: low-dose counter, high-dose counter and electronic analysis system

The stationary and quasi-stationary ODL probes are largely identical in design. They consist of two Geiger-Müller counters. The probes are filled with gas and are positioned within an electric field. If particles penetrate the tube wall, a voltage pulse is generated. The counters register this pulse. The gas-filled counter tubes are different in size so that they cover an extremely large measuring range, reaching from 0.04 microsievert per hour to 5 sievert per hour.

The low-dose counter

The highly sensitive "low-dose counter" makes it possible to determine the base level of the ambient dose rate. This is the level of the natural environmental radioactivity, which is typically between 0.04 and 0.25 microsievert per hour in Germany or in Europe.

The high-dose counter

To cater for all scenarios, the second counter – the "high-dose counter" – makes it possible to determine an ambient dose rate of up to 5 sievert per hour. The data generated by the ODL probes is analysed to obtain a total value for the ambient radioactivity. However, this value does not show the different types of radionuclides involved.

Spectrometering ODL probes

Spectrometering ODL probes are used to register gamma radiation and x-rays depending on their amount of energy. A scintillator detector, for example, transforms the energy contained in the radiation into light pulses. It reinforces the light and creates an analogue electric signal from this light. The electric signal is transformed into a digital value that can be analysed by the system. If these signals are recorded over a longer period of time – such as 30 minutes – they yield a spectrum. This spectrum can be used to deduce the type of radionuclides involved and their intensity.


BfS staff performs maintenance work on an ODL probe Lupe BfS  staff performs maintenance work on an ODL probe

BfS staff visits each ODL measuring station for an inspection at least every three years to ensure regular maintenance of the measuring network. At this occasion the BfS staff performs the pending service tasks and carries out a function test as well as an electrical equipment check. These tasks serve for quality assurance of the measuring station.

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