International Workshop on Public Exposure concludes in Cape Town
There are many situations in which the public is routinely exposed to radiation and national authorities may need to consider if some actions are justified to reduce exposure. These situations are referred to as “existing exposure situations”. Examples of such situations include land contaminated from past practices, radionuclides in food and drinking water in non-emergency situations and radon in buildings. While the basic principles of how to manage these situations are established in the IAEA’s International Basic Safety Standards1, decisions need to take into account also other factors inter alia existing national regulations and social and economic conditions.
From 5 to 7 May 2016, an International Workshop on Control of Public Exposure in Compliance with the International Basic Safety Standards was held in Cape Town, South Africa with the purpose of addressing the management of existing exposure situations. The Workshop was organized in cooperation with the World Health Organization (WHO) and hosted by the National Nuclear Regulator of South Africa. The Workshop was attended by 25 participants from 14 countries: Brazil, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Croatia, Ghana, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Morocco, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan, Switzerland, Uganda and Zambia.
As part of the Workshop, a number of recognized international experts outlined how these issues are addressed in the IAEA Safety Standards and in the publications of the WHO. In addition, they shared practical experience in managing these matters at the national level, noting that economic and societal aspects need to be fully considered in the decision-making process.
An important feature of the Workshop was the use of break-out sessions where the participants separated into working groups to review a number of pre-designed scenarios and then presented their conclusions to the wider group for more detailed discussion. A lot of attention was given to the importance of involving relevant stakeholders in the establishment and use of reference levels and to the process of reaching decisions on how best to balance radiological and non-radiological factors.
One important conclusion of the Workshop was the need to build knowledge and expertise within Africa on managing exposure of the public due to radon in homes and on controlling building materials with regard to their content of naturally occurring radionuclides.