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 (2013/59), 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 SAMIRA initiative 

Nuclear and radiation science, technology and applications play an important role in vital areas like medicine, industry, agriculture and food production, research, security and protection of the environment. These technologies also bring many benefits to EU citizens and address some of the most pressing challenges of today, in particular for human health and the fight against cancer.

The strategic agenda for medical ionising radiation applications of nuclear and radiation technology - also referred to as 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.

Thanks to its scope and aims, SAMIRA goes hand in hand with many EU initiatives, including the EU Council’s call for action in the priority areas security of supply of medical radioisotopes, radiation quality and safety in medicine, and innovation and technological development of medical ionising radiation applications. SAMIRA is moreover closely linked to the Commission’s “Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan”, particularly as it can contribute to the main objectives of the initiative.

SAMIRA conferences and workshops

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.

The European Commission also hosted a technical workshop on 'Medical radioisotopes in the future', 7 February 2019 in Brussels, to investigate the challenges and opportunities on the specific topic previously identified as an issue with relevant stakeholders.

The European Commission and Finland’s presidency of the Council of the EU hosted another workshop on 'Management of spent fuel and radioactive waste arising from non-energy uses of nuclear and radiation technologies' on 13 November 2019 in Brussels. The workshop results contributed to the preparation of Council conclusions on this subject area from December 2019.

To further support actions under the SAMIRA umbrella, the European Commission has launched a study in 2020 with the objective of collecting additional information on the supply chains of the main established and new radioisotopes in Europe, laying the ground for long term European cooperation in this area.  Similarly, the QuADRANT project will promote constant improvement in quality and safety of radiology, radiotherapy and nuclear medicine through the implementation of clinical audit as part of EU countries’ healthcare systems.


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