NEA press room

Press kit: Radiological protection

Radiological protection concerns the protection of workers, members of the public, and patients undergoing diagnosis and therapy, against the harmful effects of ionising radiation. In order to cope with expanding radiation and nuclear practices, and in view of the particular character of the radiation risks, radiological protection has developed during the last few decades a unique and elaborate system of concepts, principles and techniques for the prevention and control of radiological risks. 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. Initially, 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 radiological 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. More...

NEA Radiological protection programme

Related NEA publications and reports

The Process of Regulatory Authorisation Le processus d'autorisation réglementaire
Governments and regulatory authorities are responsible for the definition of regulatory controls or conditions, if any, that should be applied to radioactive sources or radiation exposure situations in order to protect the public, workers and the environment. The CRPPH has developed a concept that it calls "the process of regulatory authorisation". It is described in detail in this report, and is intended to help regulatory authorities apply more transparently, coherently and simply the broad recommendations of the ICRP to the real-life business of radiological protection regulation and application. In developing this concept, the CRPPH recognises the importance of an appropriate level of stakeholder involvement in the process.

Radiological Protection of the Environment Version française
Summary Report of the Issues
The system of radiological protection is currently being revised in order to make it simpler, clearer and more responsive to stakeholder needs. During this evolution process, particular attention is being given to the development of an explicit system for the radiological protection of the environment. It was in this context that the NEA organised, in close collaboration with the International Commission on Radiological Protection, a forum on radiological protection of the environment.This report summarises the key issues discussed at the forum. They include sustainable development, identification of what to protect, the definition of detriment, the necessary level of regulation, an integrated approach to protection, the use of similar approaches for humans and the environment, practical foundations for a system of environmental protection, and consequences in terms of training. (2003)

The Way Forward in Radiological Protection Vers un nouveau système de protection radiologique
Virtually all national and international radiation protection regulations and standards are based on the recommendations published by the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP). New recommendations, to replace those issued in 1990, are in the process of being developed for issuance in 2005, and it is in the interest of all NEA Member countries to ensure that these recommendations meet the needs of national regulatory organisations and practitioners. Since revisions began at the ICRP in 1999, the NEA Committee on Radiation Protection and Public Health (CRPPH) has been leading discussions regarding what, in the old recommendations, could be improved or changed to make any new recommendations more functional. Based on a preliminary two-year study to identify those areas that should be improved, this report suggests specific improvements that would render the new system easier to understand and apply, and that should be considered for inclusion in the new ICRP recommendations. (2002)

ISOE - Information System on Occupational Exposure: Ten Years of Experience
ISOE was created in 1992 to provide a forum for radiation protection experts from both utilities and national regulatory authorities to discuss, promote and coordinate international co-operative undertakings in the area of worker protection at nuclear power plants. The ISOE System is promoted and sponsored by the NEA and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). (2002)

Related links

International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP)
The ICRP is an independent registered charity, established to advance for the public benefit the science of radiological protection, in particular by providing recommendations and guidance on all aspects of protection against ionising radiation.

United Nations Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR)
UNSCEAR's mandate in the United Nations system is to assess and report levels and effects of exposure to ionising radiation. Governments and organisations throughout the world rely on the Committee's estimates as the scientific basis for evaluating radiation risk, establishing radiation protection and safety standards, and regulating radiation sources.

International Radiation Protection Association
The primary purpose of IRPA is to provide a medium whereby those engaged in radiation protection activities in all countries may communicate more readily with each other and through this process advance radiation protection in many parts of the world.

Last updated: 19 April 2008