The newly minted health physicists

Danish Decommissioning has gained two trained health physicists at the start of 2017. Mikkel Øberg and Quang Le have completed the one-year in-house training.

" I have always wanted to work with radiation and dosimetry in practice and not just sit and do research alone in a basement. As a health physicist, you work to protect people from radiation in their work environment , and you are also an advisor, facilitator and teacher", explains Mikkel Øberg.

Unlike countries with nuclear power, Denmark does not have a certified training programme for health physicists. Instead, the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Section sets out a training plan for future health physicists who will receive basic training as either an engineer or a physicist.

Study circles, exercises and courses
The largest part of the training takes place as a study circuit with the seasoned health physicists and sometimes also the operations manager of the health physics laboratory. A wide range of topics are discussed in a cross-border way, and materials are exchanged.

The theory is supplemented by a wide range of exercises and tasks that are subsequently reviewed. These may include calculation tasks such as the formation and shielding against brake X-rays from beta sources, or on the consequences of the release of radioactive substances into the surrounding environment. These may also be laboratory exercises where different measuring equipment has to be calibrated or where it is necessary to measure whether commissioning wastes with low levels of radioactive substances can be released.

The internal part of the training is supplemented by external courses as appropriate. Quang Le has undergone an eight-week course Radioactive Isotopes and Ionising Radiation at the University of Copenhagen as well as DANAK's Basic Course for Assessors (a course to be used in conjunction with DD 's accredited release function).

"The courses that Quang took, I already had through my previous employment and training as a civil engineer in medicine and technology. So I instead took the Course Applied Health Physics at Oak Ridge Associated Universities in Tennessee. It is a five-week course that is part of the UNITED States' requirements for certified health physicists," says Mikkel Øberg.

The internal chance
Both Quang Le and Mikkel Øberg were recruited internally and came from engineering positions.

"My entire education has been aimed at being able to work on Risø. I have previously sought one of the DD 's health physicist positions, but instead got a job as an operating engineer here in 2014. I worked with our waste database for a few years, and when health physicist posts were posted again, I immediately struck," explains Mikkel Øberg.

Now that the training period is well over, both newly minted health physicists are DD 's 24-hour response. As a health physicist, you are called if, for example, a fire alarm sounds at the nuclear facilities or other incidents and accidents that may involve radioactive substances.