On January 13-15, 2020, Dr. Shaheen A. Dewji of the Department of Nuclear Engineering at Texas A&M University joined the esteemed American Nuclear Society (ANS) delegation to discuss the concept of “reasonableness” in the radiation protection philosophy of “ALARA” (As Low as Reasonably Achievable) at a workshop held by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) in Lisbon, Portugal. The objective of this workshop, entitled, “NEA Workshop on Optimization: Rethinking the Art of Reasonableness”, was to identify a regulatory and practical approach for assessing radiological protection circumstances, and for developing, with appropriate stakeholder participation, the best radiological protection choices under the prevailing circumstances. Workshop participants came from a wide variety of perspectives regarding effects of radiation exposure, radiation protection regulation and the implementation of that regulation from a selected invited group of international scientific and policy subject matter experts.
Radiological protection decisions are informed by science, but are based on judgement as to what level of protection is “reasonably achievable”. The science of radiological protection continues to evolve and advance, but seems not likely to quickly and definitively resolve the issue of what level of exposure can cause harm. However, the need to take radiological protection decisions remains, and input is needed to help to assure that protection choices are reasonable. Taking a broad view of assessing and balancing responses to the risks associated with any particular prevailing circumstance in practice can be very difficult to achieve.
The ANS delegation included past, present, and future ANS Presidents, in addition to esteemed subject matter experts in radiation protection sciences, regulation, and policy.
ANS delegation with (left to right): Tony Brooks (Lead Scientist of Department of Energy Low Dose Program, University of Washington – Ret.); Mary Lou Dunzik-Gougar (Idaho State University; American Nuclear Society President-Elect); Paul Locke (John Hopkins University); Marilyn Kray (Exelon Corp.; American Nuclear Society President); Shaheen Dewji (Texas A&M University; American Nuclear Society Radiation Protection and Shielding Division); Alan Waltar (Former American Nuclear Society President, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Ret. and former NUEN Department Head at TAMU); Amir Bahadori (Kansas State University; American Nuclear Society Radiation Protection and Shielding Division).
Under the supervision of Dr. Dewji, a series of curated case studies evaluating the application and interpretation of “reasonableness” were presented on each of the topics developed by Texas A&M Nuclear Engineering Undergraduate Students with selected subject matter experts from the American Nuclear Society:
Case 1: Appropriate Radiological Risk-Based Limitations for a Geological Repository Jordan Hillis (with Rob Hayes, NCSU; Jim Conca, UFA Ventures, Inc.; Alan Waltar, PNNL-Ret.)
Case 2: Safe Drinking Water Regulations Andrea Macias, Estefany Martinez (with Dan Stout, TVA)
Case 3: Implications of Evacuation at Fukushima Megan Frisbey, Alex de Rochemont (with Alan Waltar, PNNL-Ret.)
Case 4: Zahn’s Corner Middle School Closure Wyatt Smither, Morgan Ho (with Craig Piercy and John Starkey, ANS)
The presentation was prepared by Dr. Dewji and delivered to the Workshop audience on behalf of the ANS delegation by President Marilyn Kray. The ANS delegation is continuing to advance the discussion of “reasonableness” in the USA in the purview of resurrection of the Department of Energy Low Dose Research Program, which has impacts in all areas of Nuclear Engineering (power, public health, emergency response, defence, medicine, risk communication).
The workshop was organized by the NEA’s Committee on Radiological Protection and Public Health (CRPPH) event was hosted by the Service de Radiologie, Institut Portugais and held at the Portuguese Institute of Oncology.
Also in attendance were esteemed leadership from the NEA, Director General, William Magwood, IV, and Head of the Division of Radiological Protection and Human Aspects of Nuclear Safety, Yeonhee Hah.