How is radiation protection provided

- May 23, 2019-

How is radiation protection provided?

The conceptual   framework for radiation protection, as proposed by the ICRP, provides  a basis for operational criteria and guidance applicable to specific situations   (e.g., nuclear power, medical radiation therapy, chronic exposure to natural  radiation) developed by international intergovernmental organisations   such as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Commission     of the European Communities (CEC) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation     and Development/Nuclear Energy Agency (OECD/NEA). Essentially, all countries   incorporate ICRP concepts in their radiation protection regulations and   practices. 

Radiation  protection concepts, however, can only be implemented through an effective  infrastructure which includes adequate laws and regulations, an efficient     regulatory system, a well structured complex of experts and operational   provisions. It is also essential to establish an attitude and behaviour   shared by all those involved with protection responsibilities, from workers   through management levels, which ensures that protection and safety issues receive the attention warranted as an overriding priority. This attitude  and behaviour is sometimes called a safety culture.

In general, national legislation establishes a regulatory authority empowered to issue regulations, authorise a registration and/or licensing of sources, conduct  inspections and take enforcement actions. While the regulatory authority  is empowered and responsible to the public for discharge of these functions, registrants and licensees bear prime responsibility for the safety of  the sources in their possession. They are responsible for establishing   a safety culture within their organisation and are responsible for ensuring   safety of their workers and members of the public with regard to their    operations. Others, such as designers, manufacturers and constructors  have professional and legal responsibilities that are also significant  to safety. 

A fundamental  component of radiation protection linked to the infrastructure is the  availability of adequate measurement equipment and techniques as well  as modelling and assessment methods and software. These are well developed  for most situations. It is also expected that the evolution of these protection   technologies will continue with gradual improvements in instrumentation,   modelling, assessment methods and quality control, in parallel with developments   in fields such as electronics, environmental studies and the nuclear industry in general. 

With respect  to the quality of radiation protection infrastructures, there is a significant  diversity of situations throughout the world. The OECD countries generally   have well established infrastructures for radiation protection, with exhaustive and regularly updated regulations, strong and competent regulatory bodies,  adequate operational protection and emergency response structures, and  advanced research institutions as well as adequate measurement and assessment    technologies. There are obvious variations in the level and size of these  infrastructures, linked to the different levels of radiation and nuclear  power applications in the various countries, but, as a whole, the standard     of radiation protection across the OECD area appears good and sometimes  excellent. This conclusion is supported by trends showing significant  dose reduction in many practices through diligent application of the optimisation  of the protection principle in several OECD countries. The situation is much more uneven in the rest of the world. Beside countries where the infrastructure and the standard of protection are fully comparable with  those of the OECD countries, lie a large number of countries which do not have a sufficient or even a significant infrastructure for radiation  protection. This is due to a lower degree of economic development or the presence of significant political instability and, in several cases, to   severe shortage of resources where priorities are assigned to more pressing        societal needs. 

The new  International Standards for the Protection Against Radiation and the Safety  of Radiation Sources (BSS) developed through a joint effort by the Food   and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), the IAEA, the  International Labour Organisation (ILO), the OECD/NEA, the Pan American  Health Organisation (PAHO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) provides   a set of conceptual and applicative recommendations appropriate for developing   protection regulations and operational requirements. The BSS will provide  valuable guidance in establishing improving national radiation protection  infrastructures where they are not presently adequate.