Committee on Radiological Protection and Public Health (CRPPH)
Ongoing
Photo: US Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Overview

The NEA member countries’ experience built over more than one decade, from the practical implementation of the 2007 version of the international system of radiological protection has begun to raise questions regarding the most appropriate way to interpret these recommendations (ICRP 103). Specifically, understanding of what is meant by optimisation is changing, becoming more multi-disciplinary. Engagement with stakeholders for regulatory changes or for preparing and implementing the decision making process in various situations, has been shown to be essential, but has not yet reached a consensus view as to how it should be understood, regulated, and implemented. In addition to these structural issues, there is growing concern that radiological protection is not attracting enough new students and is rarely “career-oriented” through professional vocation. Related to all three of these issues is the need to continue research to better understand the possible biological and health effects of exposures to low-dose radiation.

A key objective of optimisation has for some time been to assure that exposures, and the number of people exposed, should be As Low As Reasonably Achievable (ALARA), and that social and economic factors are taken into account. Although radiological protection experts are often asked to make recommendations as to what protection solution will give results that are ALARA, this is a multi-dimensional question for which radiological protection considerations alone are not sufficient. Other disciplines, such as social science and economics, are often needed to address prevailing circumstances that can cause extremely complex situations. Post-accident recovery is an example of this, where affected populations may choose between staying in their home, now in a wide area of surface contamination, or leaving for unaffected areas. This involves complexity in that elements to consider would include individual concerns, such as the affected persons’ employment, family status, the history of social and cultural events in the affected area, local government’s role in moving forward, local infrastructure aspects, patterns of leaving or staying, etc. It would also involve governmental choices, in particular of focus and resource allocation, of support for affected stakeholders, and of information provided internationally and nationally. Studies and programmes to prepare for such circumstances are being increasingly implemented. In the USA, the content of the NCRP Report No. 175 dealing with “Decision Making for Late-Phase Recovery from Major Nuclear or Radiological Incidents” played an essential role in the US national policy in 2017 where the optimisation process for setting clean up goals with stakeholders was published. Clearly, examples in many countries demonstrate that stakeholder involvement is critical to the success of recovery activities (e.g., setting goals for clean up, deciding on return criteria).

Approaches to engaging stakeholders, who find themselves in any type of circumstance involving ionising radiation and possible exposures to the public, workers, or the environment, are also being studied. Engaging with stakeholders to develop protection solutions for radiological situations is increasingly seen as being central to achieving solutions that are agreed and sustainable. Engagement to address many situations – such as the construction of nuclear installations, the management of radioactive waste, decommissioning, etc. – will need to be within a flexible legislative and regulatory framework, within which any type of situation can be addressed. The stakeholder engagement framework will need to address the roles and responsibilities of all involved, while providing guidance as to how engagement should be handled under specific circumstances. Regulations and processes for optimisation of post-accident recovery, with stakeholders, have for some time been addressed in France through the CODIRPA programme. Stakeholder groups, including the public living in the vicinity of identified installations at risk, local governmental officials, regulatory authorities and TSOs, and other relevant organisations have been working together to understand possible risks and to build plans for short- and long-term response. Another example is the Irish National Radon Control Strategy launched by the Ministry of the Environment in 2014, where a 10-year phase two started in 2019 to take into account stakeholder feedback on various radon-related topics.

In both of the above situations, addressing optimisation or stakeholder engagement, radiological protection (RP) experts are needed. However, there remains the persistent belief (validated through surveys) that the broad RP expert community is getting smaller as today’s RP leaders retire. Noting the “gap” in the education/experience “pipeline” that resulted from both the Chernobyl and Fukushima NPP accidents, both government and industry remain concerned over finding sufficient numbers of RP leaders. This issue is being addressed in an international context through a special session at the 2020 International Radiation Protection Association’s (IRPA) 15th Congress that will gather ongoing efforts and develop a collective way forward.

Radiological science continues to advance, particularly addressing whether low dose or low-dose-rate ionising radiation can cause adverse effects, such a cancer or non-cancer diseases. Radiobiology and epidemiology studies continue globally, but could use a greater level of co-ordination and collaboration. Ongoing work in Europe, through topical research platforms (e.g., MELODI for low dose risks, ALLIANCE for Radioecology, EURAMED for medical application) are models for the global expansion of research coordination efforts. Similar initiatives are also taken in North America (named IDEA initiative) and Japan (named PLANET).

Work in all these areas is designed to assist CRPPH Members in addressing these issues within in their own national context. Results will be offered to the international community as the consensus of the regulators and experts of the CRPPH, with stakeholder input, for consideration and use in the development of a new, modern system of radiation protection.

The CRPPH works in close co-operation with the Radioactive Waste Management Committee (RWMC), the Committee on Decommissioning and Legacy Management (CDLM), the Committee on Nuclear Regulatory Activities (CNRA) and the Committee on the Safety of Nuclear Installations (CSNI), the Nuclear Law Committee (NLC), the Nuclear Development Committee (NDC) and with other NEA Committees as appropriate.

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