Radiation from medical use

Radiation from medical use

The use of radiation in medicine has been an important tool in diagnosing and treating patients for over a century. Radiation is, for example used in x-ray medical imaging and cancer-treating radiotherapy.

Exposure to radiation can however harm the health of both patients and medical staff. With human exposure to ionising radiation in medicine exceeding that of any other man-made source, it is important to have safety standards in place. The basic safety standards directive, which, among other items, regulates the safe use of ionising radiation in medical applications is consistently updated.

The Commission also issues non-binding recommendations and communications. The Communication on medical applications of ionizing radiation and security of supply of radioisotopes for nuclear medicine (COM/2010/0423) addressed two problem areas:

  • the protection of patients and medical staff from radiation
  • the supply of radioisotopes for nuclear medicine.

Strategic agenda for medical, industrial and research applications of nuclear and radiation technology (SAMIRA)

Nuclear and radiation technology is used outside the nuclear power sector in areas such as in medicine, in various industries, and for research.  It is an indispensable part of modern medicine, used for diagnosis and treatment of some of the most common life-threatening diseases.  In addition, nuclear and radiation technologies are used in many industrial applications, including material processing, manufacturing semi-conductors, sterilisation of medical equipment, treatment of liquid and gaseous effluents, security checks and non-destructive testing. 

The SAMIRA initiative seeks to identify cross-cutting actions that the European Commission can take in collaboration with stakeholders to maximise the societal benefits of nuclear and radiation technologies, whilst maintaining the highest achievable level of quality and safety to provide reassurance to citizens. 

The SAMIRA evidence gathering and consultation phase began in 2017.  It has been informed by a contracted study into the non-power applications of nuclear and radiation technology, as well as an international conference in March 2018, organised by the Commission, that highlighted how societal challenges can be addressed by advancing SAMIRA.

Additionally, on 7 February 2019 the Commission hosted a technical workshop in Brussels on Medical Radioisotopes in the Future, the purpose of which was to investigate the challenges and opportunities on the specific topic previously identified as an issue with relevant stakeholders.

Workshop documents: