RADIOLOGICAL PROTECTION RESEARCH

The EC research programme has included research on the understanding of radiation mechanisms to provide greater understanding of the physical, chemical, molecular and cellular biological processes as a consequence of radiation. It has also included epidemiological studies of people exposed to radiation. Collectively the mechanistic and epidemiological studies provide a good basis for quantifying the risks from radiation at low doses.

Research tasks of the former kind included the modelling of radiation ontogenesis and related biological effects and the repair of and recovery from DNA damage. Also carried out have been radiation sensitivity and molecular studies of radiation ontogenesis and predisposition to cancer and the effects of in utero radiation. The epidemiology of populations exposed to radiation has covered further analysis of populations exposed to large doses, e. g. atom bomb survivors through to less extreme exposures, e. g. uranium miners and radiation workers, together with the follow-up of cancers incidence. These have been complemented by further research of the treatment of exposed individuals. Other studies have addressed hereditary and genetic factors and the epidemiology of medically treated patients.

In order to evaluate radiation risks, it is necessary to have available high-quality methods for the assessment of levels of exposure to external and internal radiation. European studies have addressed the parameters that determine the fluxes of radionuclides in various ecosystems, in particular the fluxes of radionuclides in surface and groundwaters and the consequences of accidental contamination of environments. Also studied have been the intake of radionuclides and their dosimetry and the monitoring of external radiation. Code developments have been directed towards quantifying the predictions of probabilistic accident sequence codes and the develop­ment of decision supporting systems for emergency site management. Finally risk perception and communication has been studied, including comparative risk assessments of different systems.

The reduction of exposures in accordance with the ALARA principle is the primary goal of radiological protection. The main focus of research is to optimise radiological protection in many complex situations giving rise to radiation exposures, from nuclear reactor operations to participation in various other activities. Research has considered management strategies and techniques for the restoration of contaminated sites and optimisation of radiation protection of patients undergoing diagnostic radiology.

Research has also been conducted in understanding events from the past. The aims of this work are to improve the management of land (territories) that have been contaminated with radioactive material and to contribute to the future health and well being of populations that have been exposed. European research has considered in particular the consequences of the Chernobyl accident and other radiation incidents. An objective of this work is to develop more effective means for managing the radiological consequences of any future accident.

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