(Radio)active participation

This year, for the first time, CERN hosted the Rencontres internationales lycéennes de la radioprotection: a three-day event in which some 200 students from 16 schools in France and elsewhere came together to discuss the topic of radiation protection and to deepen their understanding of the field.


Participants of the Rencontres internationales lycéennes de la radioprotection 2014.

Each year since 2008, the Centre d’étude sur l’évaluation de la protection dans le domaine nucléaire français (CEPN, the French centre for studies of the evaluation of nuclear protection) and the Institut de radioprotection et de sûreté nucléaire français (IRSN, the French institute for radiation protection and nuclear safety), in partnership with various other bodies*, have been organising radiation protection workshops. Aimed at students between the ages of 15 and 18 from France and beyond, who attend voluntarily and often in their own time, these workshops give the teenagers a deeper understanding of the scientific and social aspects of ionising radiation so that they can develop their own culture of radiation protection.

The students meet up with their teachers regularly over the school year for practical sessions on radiation protection themes, which the teachers choose in cooperation with experts. “These workshops have often given students the chance to meet experts in radiation protection and to make contact with local partners,” explains Yann Donjoux, a member of CERN’s Radiation Protection Group and the organiser of the 2014 Rencontres internationales de la radioprotection event at CERN, “so it’s also a great opportunity to find out more about the working world!"

Three Fukushima school students gave a presentation about their city's radiation protection.

To round off the hard work done throughout the year, the students are invited to the Rencontres event. The participants spend three days together presenting their work, exchanging ideas with other students and discussing the subject with the professionals. This year, for the first time, these meetings were held at CERN, Yann enthuses. “So, from 31 March to 2 April, we played host to some 200 young people representing 16 schools and colleges in France, Germany, Morocco, Belarus, Ukraine and Japan!"

The programme included plenary sessions and exhibition stands run by the students, visits to CERN’s Universe of Particles exhibition and the ATLAS, CMS, LHCb and ASACUSA experiments, as well as a trip to the city of Geneva and a chance to sample the famous Swiss fondue. “We were happy to have among us three students from a school in Fukushima, who came to talk about the current radiation levels in their town and tell us about life in Fukushima since the tsunami,” says Yann. “Professor Ryugo Hayano, ASACUSA spokesperson and professor at the University of Tokyo, also shared his personal experience of the disaster.” Participants of the event also had the chance to learn all about the ALARA 360° system and the MediPix detectors being used by young researchers on the ARDENT project to detect cosmic rays. A packed schedule for these budding radiation protection experts.

*The Pavillon des sciences de Franche-Comté, the Institut national des sciences et techniques nucléaires français (INSTN-CEA), the Autorité de sûreté nucléaire française (ASN), the Swiss Office Fédéral de Santé Publique (OFSP), the Association romande de radioprotection (ARRAD), the Société française de radioprotection (SFRP) and of course, this year, CERN.

by Anaïs Schaeffer