Exposure to radiation from natural sources
Exposure to radiation from natural sources is an inescapable feature of everyday life in both working and public environments. This exposure is in most cases of little or no concern to society, but in certain situations the introduction of health protection measures needs to be considered, for example when working with uranium and thorium ores and other naturally occuring radioactive material (NORM). These situations have become the focus of greater attention by the Agency in recent years. The Agency’s main areas of work in this area are:
- Assessing the need for radiation protection measures in work involving minerals and raw materials
- Safety publications for industry sectors
- Training packages for industry sectors
- Remediating Sites and Regulating NORM residues
The components of this work programme associated with occupational radiation protection are included in the Action Plan for Occupational Radiation Protection.
A list of Agency publications covering exposure to radiation from natural sources is available.
The IAEA Safety Report No. 49 "Assessing the need for Radiation Protection Measures in Work Involving Minerals and Raw Materials" was published in November 2006. The report identifies the industry sectors and process materials most likely to require regulatory consideration, and provides further information to assist regulatory bodies in assessing the need for radiation protection measures. The Safety Report also discusses the considerations involved in determining the most appropriate regulatory approach, in line with the graded approach to regulation recommended in the Safety Standards.
A Safety Guide on the management of radioactive waste from the mining and milling of ores was published in 2002, and a Safety Guide on occupational radiation protection in mining and raw materials processing, jointly sponsored by the IAEA and the International Labour Office (ILO), was published in 2004. Safety Reports on protection against radon in workplaces other than mines (jointly sponsored by the IAEA and ILO), and on radiation protection and management of radioactive waste in the oil and gas industry, were published in 2003.
Safety Report No. 51 entitled "Radiation Protection and NORM Residue Management in the Zircon and Zirconia Industries", was published in 2007.
Safety Report No. 68 entitled "Radiation Protection and NORM Residue Management in the Production of Rare Earths from Thorium containing Minerals", published in 2011.
Two further Safety Reports on radiation protection and NORM residue management in the the phosphate industry and in the titanium dioxide industry are currently being developed.
A training package on radiation protection and management of radioactive waste in the oil and gas industry has been developed, and national, regional and interregional training courses are provided by arrangement with the governments of Member States. A training module on occupational radiation protection in the mining and raw materials processing has been developed for inclusion in the Agency’s Postgraduate Education Course on Radiation Protection and the Safety of Radiation Sources.
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