In the case of a radiological or nuclear event, biological dosimetry can be an important tool to support clinical decision-making. During a nuclear event, individuals might be exposed to a mixed field of neutrons and photons. The composition of the field and the neutron energy spectrum influence the degree of damage to the chromosomes. During the transatlantic BALANCE project, an exposure similar to a Hiroshima-like device at a distance of 1.5 km from the epicenter was simulated, and biological dosimetry based on dicentric chromosomes was performed to evaluate the participants ability to discover unknown doses and to test the influence of differences in neutron spectra. In a first step, calibration curves were established by irradiating blood samples with 5 doses in the range of 0–4 Gy at two different facilities in Germany (Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt [PTB]) and the USA (the Columbia IND Neutron Facility [CINF]). The samples were sent to eight participating laboratories from the RENEB network and dicentric chromosomes were scored by each participant. Next, blood samples were irradiated with 4 blind doses in each of the two facilities and sent to the participants to provide dose estimates based on the established calibration curves. Manual and semiautomatic scoring of dicentric chromosomes were evaluated for their applicability to neutron exposures. Moreover, the biological effectiveness of the neutrons from the two irradiation facilities was compared. The calibration curves from samples irradiated at CINF showed a 1.4 times higher biological effectiveness compared to samples irradiated at PTB. For manual scoring of dicentric chromosomes, the doses of the test samples were mostly successfully resolved based on the calibration curves established during the project. For semiautomatic scoring, the dose estimation for the test samples was less successful. Doses >2 Gy in the calibration curves revealed nonlinear associations between dose and dispersion index of the dicentric counts, especially for manual scoring. The differences in the biological effectiveness between the irradiation facilities suggested that the neutron energy spectrum can have a strong impact on the dicentric counts.

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