The Future of Radiological Protection


Modernising Optimisation in Decision Making

Author(s): Greg Lamarre 1, Jacqueline Garnier-Laplace 1, Jan-Hendrik Kruse 1, Toshimitsu Homma 2, Andy Mayall 3, Debora Quayle 4, Thierry Schneider 5, Hildegarde Vandenhove 6, M. Sneve 7, H. Vandenhove 6
( 1 OECD-NEA; 2 NRA, Japan; 3 EA, UK; 4 Health Canada; 5 CEPN, France; 6 SCK-CEN, Belgium; 7 DSA, Norway)



Optimisation in decision making has broad applicability to the whole spectrum of nuclear and radiation-related policy, regulation and practice. The way it is applied has changed in recent years as society has evolved to promote an inclusive and holistic decision-making process. In the radiological protection area, the increasing challenge is to apply it in the broader context of overall risk management, broaden the stakeholder participation process, and deepen the thinking on reasonableness in optimisation. Experience in various circumstances has shown that there is a need to develop a framework in which very different aspects can be balanced to support risk-based decision-making and determine the level of tolerance of risk and uncertainty. Currently, optimisation, as one of the three protection principles of the international radiological protection system, is well defined in theory, complex in practice in a large number of situations, and increasingly based on the combination of four pillars:

  • holistic, or integrated, protection where optimisation of radiological protection is applied as part of an overall optimisation of protection from all relevant hazards (sometimes referred to as an ‘all hazards approach’);
  • maximising net benefit and the ‘common good’ - taking all relevant socio-economic and environmental risks and impacts, and benefits, into account so that radiological protection facilitates and enhances well-being and does not result in unintended consequences;
  • involving stakeholders – with stakeholder engagement being integral to the decision-making process and key for defining acceptance or tolerance;
  • the need for proportionality – by implementing a graded approach.

As radiological protection moves towards a more holistic approach, recognising its multi-dimensional nature, there should be an even greater focus on understanding and meeting the expectations of those affected by the application of protection. Development is therefore needed along three main lines:

  1.   how policy and practice are developed in consultation with, and understood by a wider cross section of society;
  2.   how policy and practice could be simplified;
  3.   how to integrate consideration of other policies and practices so that radiological protection is properly integrated into the wider decision-making process and not seen as a separate "add-on" process.

The forthcoming work of the Committee on Radiological Protection and Public Health on modernising the way optimisation is implemented should help inform the revision of the ICRP system. The ultimate goal is to facilitate sustainable and transparent decision-making, beyond the optimisation of radiological protection, in the broader perspective of individual and social well-being.

Text on behalf the NEA CRPPH's bureau.

Keywords: Optimisation; Stakeholder engagement; Decision making; Reasonableness; multiple risks and benefits



Christopher Clement

Greg, thanks for the thought-provoking presentation. The idea of 'optimisation of well-being' as a way to help ensure all factors are considered, and also takes into account the WHO definition of health.