The Future of Radiological Protection


Managing Ionising Radiation Risks: The Need for a Broader Context

Author(s): Marcel Lips, Alexandre de Ruvo
(World Nuclear Association, WNA)



ICRP is the leading scientific organisation regrouping some of the most recognised RP experts worldwide and has defined for decades the principles and tools to be used by RP professionals. The ICRP has recently embarked on a process to revise its General Recommendations.

The Radiological Protection Working Group (RPWG) of the World Nuclear Association, a forum for RP experts in the field of nuclear energy, acknowledges the need to adapt selected parts of the RP system, but recommends considering any reform in a wider context.

The overarching aim of the radiological protection is the protection of humans, animals, and the environment from any detrimental health effects due to ionising radiation. Over the years however, the RP community started to understand that the harmful effects of ionising radiation should not be considered in isolation of other types of hazard. As such, the “all-hazard approach” was developed to include all the risks considered for a specific scenario, albeit all too often focused on the local scale only, forgetting the potential implications on the global scale. Climate change originating from anthropomorphic activities is one such risk that is already creating upheaval in our society and is on the move to cause a tremendous impact on our planet in the near future, far more than any small improvement in radiation exposure ever will.

The ICRP has the responsibility more than ever to contextualise the realities of our time and to fully understand the potential consequences of any changes or added complexity to our current RP system which may add some small benefits from a health and safety perspective but would penalise nuclear technologies that provide huge benefits to society and an essential tool to reaching carbon neutrality. Consequently, any changes to the current RP system should be subject to a deep impact analysis using a true “all-hazard approach”.

The LNT hypothesis, the need for education especially for members of the public towards the risks associated with low doses, the avoidance of over-conservatism, the changes of the system of dose quantities, are some of the many subjects that will need to be very carefully considered bearing in mind the current challenges.

Overall, the revision of the general recommendations will need to be simple and practical. The RPWG is willing to collaborate with the ICRP to provide industry input on the practicalities of radiological protection as applied in the nuclear industry.

Keywords: All-hazard approach; Contextualisation; over-conservatism; RPWG; WNA