The scope of radiological protection

Draft document: The scope of radiological protection
Submitted by Pedro Carboneras, Committe 4
Commenting as an individual

COMMENTS ON THE DRAFT OF THE ICRP DOCUMENT “THE SCOPE OF RADIOLOGICAL PROTECTION REGULATIONS” (02/258/05-Spring 2006 version) GENERAL ISSUES • I consider the structure to be solid, valiant, well structured and clear. I particularly like the “operative” recommendations offered, although I have certain comments and questions to make, which will be indicated below. Furthermore, it is (or attempts to be) coherent, or at least as coherent as it is possible to be when talking of “optimisation” as the basis of an approach, which always implies the existence of “economic and social factors” to be considered, factors which may be variable. • In addition, and perhaps above all else, the document may be controversial in both form and content, and in order to favour its positive aspects and avoid to the extent possible the negative issues that might arise if it were thought to be an “imposition”, I strongly recommend that it be specifically submitted for the perusal of certain “senior-regulators” and also to the European Commission. • Personally I have felt especially gratified professionally by the fact that the document underlines “optimisation” as being the essential issue, reducing the emphasis somewhat on the “triviality of the individual dose”, as regards the real basis for exemption. I believe that this was always the message of IAEA-SS-89, although it became forgotten with time and was eventually reduced to the triviality of the dose (some tens of microSieverts per year), and later the magical (and unfortunate) 10 microSievert, which was simply an indication that, with this value, the process of exemption might be almost automatic. • The value recommended for a possible generic exemption, of 1,000 Bq/Kg, for the “parent” of the chains of Uranium and Thorium, seems to me to be insufficiently realistic (a position that I also defended when IAEA, RS-G-1.7 was being defined), and I believe that the message that higher “exemption” values (optimisation) might be defined on the basis of a dose criterion similar to that used for Radon (3-10 milliSievert per year) should be reinforced, in order to avoid undesired effects for industries using raw materials containing natural radioactivity, especially in view of the wastes they generate. This message would provide support for the regulatory actions contemplated in certain paragraphs. • The treatment given to the concept of “clearance” is possibly not sufficiently complete, and it should be remembered that it already has serious implications in certain countries and Organisations, associated with the concept of “radioactive waste”. It is particularly significant that it does not appear in chapter 7 (Summary of recommendations). SPECIFIC ISSUES ABSTRACT. • Although the underlying reasons are clear, the “bases” of radiation protection used for the case of Radon, and for foodstuffs and drinking water, are different from those used in other cases. This is a weak point of the document, and possibly very difficult to resolve. • I do not quite understand the reason for using the term “generic exemption” for radionuclides of natural origin, while “automatic exemption” is used for the case of foodstuffs and drinking water. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY. • Point “f” – The concept of “unmodified concentrations of radionuclides in most raw materials”, which was not mentioned in the “abstract”, is introduced as a possible cause for exclusion. This is subsequently developed in paragraphs 32 and 35. It might be appropriate for this to be reflected in the aforementioned “abstract”. – The last paragraph deals with the possibility of applying “exclusion or generic exemption” to situations of exposure to environmental radon. It might be advisable to indicate this also for situations of exposure to certain levels of concentration of natural radionuclides, as indicated in point “i”. • Point “m” – Use of the term “clearance” is fairly clearly determined to be inadvisable, although not fully. This ambiguity, which is later reflected in the main text, does not appear to contribute especially to clarifying issues for the users (see other later comments). • Point “n” – The text is insufficiently clear as regards use of the value of 1mSv/y, as the “de facto exemption level” for interventions. MAIN TEXT. • Paragraph 3 – The terms “legislator” and “regulator” are clearly defined, but in the body of the text they are not always used exactly as they have been defined. It might be appropriate to point this out in paragraph 3 and appeal to the understanding of the users in the event of there being any “slip” later on in the text. • Paragraphs 16 and 17 – There is something of a “defensive” tone to these paragraphs; it might be appropriate to eliminate this and make them purely descriptive. In addition, it should not be forgotten that there have been various experiences of situations that are very difficult to catalogue as being “practices” or “interventions”. Finally, in paragraph 17 the indications regarding situations of exposure to natural background radiation are rather confusing. • Paragraph 20 – I find some of the ideas included in this paragraph to be rather confusing, and in any case controversial and not absolutely essential in this document, the essence of which is summarised clearly in paragraph 21. • Paragraph 36 – As regards the text included in the footnote on page 31, which corresponds to paragraph 86 of publication ICRP-64, I should point out that in my copy of that publication the text of paragraph 86 is not the same. • Paragraph 59 – I have serious difficulties in understanding the differences between “cleared source” and “exempt source” in the second half of this paragraph. I see the situation as being quite the opposite of what is said here, inasmuch as it is easier to identify and trace those responsible for the first than for the second. • Paragraphs 61 and 62 – I consider it to be both unnecessary and impractical to make such a categorical differentiation as is made here between “authorised releases” and “clearance”. Neither do I believe that the discussion on the use of the concept of “clearance”, associated with the definition of “radioactive waste” is much of a help at the present time. • Paragraph 66 – Although I understand and agree with the theoretical discussion of the concept of “conditional clearance”, it should be remembered that it might have not insignificant legal connotations in certain countries and Organisations, since the concept of “clearance” has already been used in association with the definition of “radioactive waste”. It might be advisable to tone down the text. • Paragraphs 72 and 74 – It would be appropriate to clarify whether the value of 1mSv/y is “averted dose” or “total dose”. Furthermore, if the aforementioned value is independent from the existing radionuclides, there may be “inequalities” depending on whether the radionuclides in question are of natural or artificial origin. • Paragraphs 93, 94 and 95 – I understand the underlying pragmatism in the definition of the value of 1Bq/g as being the “generic exemption level” for radionuclides of natural origin; however, the matter is too important not to look for mechanisms allowing values of up to 10 Bq/g to be used for the same purpose, for example on the basis of the same reasoning as is used in the case of exposures to Radon (paragraph 106). Minor modifications to the text might be sufficient for this to be made more feasible. It should not be forgotten that there are many millions of tons of primary materials with concentrations in excess of 1Bq/g that are widely used in “unregulated” industries and activities. • Paragraph 101 – The formula indicated for building materials is not the same as the one established in the European Union. • Paragraph 126 – No recognition is given in this paragraph to the fact that the economic and social conditions may be different inside and outside the area affected by an accident, and that this might legitimately lead to different decisions (as has in fact occurred). • Paragraph 127 – I see no objective reason for the ICRP to develop a definition of “radioactive waste” that might clash with and create potentially complex situations in legal terms in countries and Organisations.