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Sharing Experiences in the Implementing the IAEA Safety Standards on Radiation Protection in Latin America and the Caribbean

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Over 30 radiation protection experts from 15 countries in the Americas participated in the event to discuss the challenges related to the implementation of GSR Part 3. (Photo: ARN)

An increased use of radiation in security screening of the public, the exposure of mine workers to natural sources of radiation and the development of radiation practices in veterinary medicine were identified as emerging issues that need to be addressed by national regulatory bodies at a recent IAEA workshop in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Over 30 radiation protection experts from 15 countries in the Americas exchanged experiences regarding the implementation of the IAEA General Safety Requirements (GSR Part 3: Radiation Protection and Safety of Radiation Sources), more commonly referred to as the International Basic Safety Standards or simply the BSS. Held from 7 to 11 October, the workshop enabled participants to identify emerging issues in radiation safety and to explore how best to update national legislation and guidelines to ensure their alignment with the BSS.

Organized in cooperation with Argentina’s Nuclear Regulatory Authority, as part of an ongoing, regional technical cooperation (TC) project[1], the IAEA workshop was chaired by an expert in occupational radiation protection with extensive experience in international labour conditions and standards. A representative of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) also participated in the meeting, reflecting the important human health dimensions of the nuclear safety requirements.

The workshop participants explored the increased use of radiation in security screening of the public across a variety of sectors. For example, the routine screening of prison visitors and staff is now becoming commonplace throughout the region. It was agreed that decisions on this kind of screening—where the radiation risk is to an individual, yet the exposure provides benefits to society in general—need to be taken in cooperation with several national organizations.

The workshop was organized in cooperation with Argentina’s Nuclear Regulatory Authority, as part of an ongoing, regional TC project. (Photo: ARN)

Participants also highlighted the routine screening of young athletes for insurance purposes, or to determine future performance potential for certain sports, as a practice of concern that may not always be justified.

“These emerging issues reinforce the need to increase the national commitment and resources to nuclear safety, which continues to be a challenge in the region. In some instances, legislation needs to be updated to bring it in line with the IAEA safety standards, and with the Basic Safety Standards,” said Luis Longoria, Director of the Technical Cooperation Division for Latin America and the Caribbean.

The expert lecturers and the participants of the workshop agreed that the exposure of workers to radiation in non-nuclear industries—such as in underground mines—and the development of radiation practices in veterinary medicine are both emerging issues which will require enhanced scrutiny by national authorities. Radiation use in veterinary medicine is undergoing rapid development and many of the practices applied in the diagnosis and treatment of patients are already being applied to animals. Participants agreed that the protection of workers and the public in both mining and in veterinary medicine would benefit from greater regulatory oversight.

Tony Colgan, Head of the IAEA’s Radiation Protection Unit, said, “The workshop provided a very valuable opportunity to discuss the radiation protection challenges in the region and the important role that the IAEA can play in helping national authorities to address them.”

Experts from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela attended the meeting.

Similar workshops have been conducted in Europe and the Asia and the Pacific regions to identify and document the lessons learned by Member States in their implementation of GSR Part 3. The last workshop in this series will be held in November 2019 for experts in Africa. The findings produced by these regional workshops will be presented at the Agency’s International Conference on Radiation Safety, which will be held from 9 to 13 November, 2020.

[1] RLA9084, ‘Strengthening the Regulatory and Radiation Safety Infrastructure’

Background

GSR Part 3 was published in 2014 and replaces the previous, 1996 edition, and it is co-sponsored by seven other international organizations, namely the European Commission, the Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, International Labour Organization, the OECD’s Nuclear Energy Agency, PAHO, the UN Environment Programme and the World Health Organization.

GSR Part 3 has been extensively revised and updated to take into account the scientific findings of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation and the recommendations of the International Commission on Radiological Protection. GSR Part 3 establishes the requirements for the protection of people and the environment from the harmful effects of ionizing radiation and for the safety of radiation sources. It applies to the operation of facilities and the conduct of activities that give rise to radiation risks, as well as to both natural and artificial sources of radiation.

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