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Fission and radiation protection

Coordinated Network for Radiation Dosimetry: Collaborating for Better Radiation Protection

Accurate calculation of the risk associated with exposure of individuals to radiation in the workplace is difficult, even for exposure to a single type of radiation. In reality, people are exposed to a variety of different radiation fields, each with its own characteristic problems, making risk assessment a very complex task. There are only a limited number of establishments involved in radiation protection research in European countries and the need for collaboration is clear. The CONRAD project forms a coordinated network for radiation dosimetry to provide the framework to extend collaboration and improve working between these establishments.

Collaborate and protect

Extremity dosimetry continues to presentsignificant problems © Courtesy by IRSN
Extremity dosimetry continues to presentsignificant problems
© Courtesy by IRSN
CONRAD has identified four work areas to coordinate European research efforts and provide guidance for radiation protection dosimetry. The feasibility for a future sustainable network on radiation protection dosimetry will be considered and the possibility of forming a European 'Network of Excellence'.

The organisational framework for the project is provided by the European Radiation Dosimetry Group (EURADOS), which comprises nearly 200 researchers from 50 European institutions in 24 countries, and includes the majority of radiation protection expertise in Europe. The feasibility study for this project will use the extensive experience of network research at the Technical Management Institute at the University of St Gallen in Switzerland.

Improving accuracy and reducing uncertainty The quality of information concerning the accuracy of results from computational approaches adopted to estimate dosimetry and instrument characteristics will be assessed by CONRAD. The measurement of internal exposure to radiation is plagued by large uncertainties and this will be reduced by coordinating work in areas such as the modelling of radionuclide transport. Complex mixed radiation fields in a workplace pose particular challenges and dosimetry for these fields needs improvement. One important complex field is that of high-altitude flight where solar events distort the usual cosmic ray field. Finally, the area of radiation protection dosimetry for medical staff will be investigated, including extremity dosimetry, dose assessment when wearing protective clothing, and during interventional radiology.

Benchmarking for better understanding and guidance

Uncertainty analysis for computational dosimetry applied to external and internal exposure at the workplace will be investigated using comparison exercises, and, for the first time, the results will provide guidance on how to treat computational uncertainties. Calculations with voxel phantoms (realistic models of the human body - a voxel is a 3-D equivalent of a pixel) and spectrum unfolding (routines that estimate the full radiation spectrum from a limited number of measurements) will be studied and guidance provided for these techniques. The internal dosimetry activities will assess uncertainties in internal exposure, research biokinetic models, and investigate Monte Carlo applications for in vivo assessment of intakes. The results will provide better understanding, guidance for practitioners and improved databases for internal dosimetry.

A report will be published on benchmark exercises undertaken in complex radiation fields at workplaces describing progress on new and improved techniques in this area. A second report will describe the results of a validation study of models assessing aircrew doses due to solar particle events.

Via comparison exercises and evaluations, a comprehensive database will be compiled for medical staff concerning extremity dosimetry capabilities, dosimetry when protective clothing is worn, and the use of active dosimeters. A detailed report on the way forward for networking in this area will also be provided. Finally, a dedicated work package will ensure timely and extensive take-up of CONRAD's findings.

Better protection for workers and employers

CONRAD will provide enhanced radiation protection dosimetry for workers in areas where the quality of dosimetry calculation could be improved. All areas where workers are occupationally exposed to radiation, from the nuclear industry to mining and health, will benefit from this work.

Reliable dosimetry provides reassurance for workers that any radiation risks are being minimised. It provides employers with the accurate data for legal protection and evidence that they are applying the principles of ALARA (As Low As Reasonably Achievable) for radiation exposure. Improved dosimetry can also have an economic impact by reducing the need for complex procedures where adequate protection cannot be currently demonstrated.