I. What is radiation protection?
Radiation protection is a term applied to concepts, requirements, technologies and operations related to protection of people (radiation workers, members of the public, and patients undergoing radiation diagnosis and therapy) against the harmful effects of ionising radiation. It has its origins early in the twentieth century. The benefits of radiation were first recognised in the use of X-rays for medical diagnosis, very soon after the discoveries of radiation and radioactivity. The rush to exploit the medical benefits led fairly soon to the recognition of the other side of the coin, that of radiation-induced harm. In those early days, only the most obvious forms of harm resulting from high doses of radiation, such as radiation burns , were observed and protection efforts focused on their prevention, mainly for practitioners rather than patients. Although the issue was narrow, this was the origin of radiation protection as a discipline. Over the middle decades of this century, it was gradually recognised that there were other, less obvious, harmful radiation effects such as radiation-induced cancer, for which there is a certain risk even at low doses of radiation. This risk cannot be completely prevented. It can only be minimised. Therefore, the overt balancing of benefits from nuclear and radiation practices against radiation risk, and efforts to reduce the residual risk, have become a major feature of radiation protection.