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Slovakia Enhances Efforts to Strengthen Occupational Radiation Protection


Entrance meeting in Bratislava (Photo: B. Okyar/IAEA)

Effective coordination, cooperation and consultation among responsible national authorities will play a crucial part in Slovakia’s efforts to enhance the country’s occupational radiation protection arrangements, a recent mission of the Occupational Radiation Protection Appraisal Service (ORPAS) concluded.

The ORPAS mission, held from 27 June to 6 July and conducted by a team of experts from 12 countries and the IAEA, visited institutions employing some of Slovakia’s 16 000 occupationally exposed workers as registered in the national database, including nuclear installations, medical and industrial facilities, and workplaces with exposure due to natural sources of radiation.

They noted that Slovakia has worked on several improvements of the national legislation, including ensuring that arrangements for occupational radiation protection of emergency workers and for female workers during and after pregnancy, as well as the management of natural sources of radiation, are fully in line with IAEA Safety Standards. The team recommended a strengthening of cooperation between the country’s Public Health Authority (ÚVZ SR) and the Nuclear Regulatory Authority (ÚJD SR), as radiation protection of workers in nuclear installations is a cross-cutting area. 

“The ORPAS mission was an excellent opportunity to discuss challenges in occupational radiation protection arrangements with operators, technical service providers and regulatory authorities in Slovakia,” said Ján Mikas, Director General, Public Health Authority of the Slovak Republic (ÚVZ SR). “This mission is a moment to evaluate and harmonize approaches to control, monitoring and workers´ measurements of radiation. It is a valuable opportunity to share best practices and experience from other regulatory processes.”

ORPAS missions provide independent reviews of legislation, regulation and practical implementation of requirements at facilities and technical service providers, regarding occupational radiation protection. They are intended for organizations that utilize radiation in facilities or activities; for technical service providers, and for regulatory bodies.

For the first time, the ORPAS mission included a review of worker protection arrangements in a geothermal facility and a show cave, which is accessible to the public for guided tours. The review focused on exposure to natural sources of ionizing radiation, including radon.

“The timing of the ORPAS mission was really good as the first National Radon Action Plan of the Slovak Republic was approved by the Government in January this year,” said Alžbeta Ďurecová, Regional Public Health Authority in Banska Bystrica. “The suggestions of the ORPAS mission will help us in obtaining the support needed to implement the plan.”

In addition, the team encouraged dosimetry services to participate in the international intercomparison exercises that assess performance and quality management systems, and to seek accreditation to internationally recognized standards on occupational radiation protection.

“The ORPAS team was impressed by excellent collaboration demonstrated by Slovak counterparts and is particularly happy that young professionals were fully engaged in the appraisal,” said Helena Janžekovič, ORPAS team leader and Senior Inspector Counsellor at the Slovenian Nuclear Safety Administration. “This shows that young generation has a keen interest in occupational radiation protection.”

The ORPAS team was made up of experts from Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, Greece, France, Italy, Lithuania, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom and the IAEA.

Occupational exposure to ionizing radiation can occur in a range of industries, medical institutions, educational and research establishments, and nuclear fuel cycle facilities. Around 24 million workers worldwide are exposed occupationally to ionizing radiation, and of these, about 13 million workers in occupations that involve natural sources of radiation and 10 million in occupations that involve exposure to man-made source of radiation. While their exposure is mostly a consequence of the normal operation of the facilities they work in, they may occasionally also be subject to excessive dose as a result of an accident. Appropriate levels of radiation protection of workers are essential for the safe and justified use of radiation, radioactive material and nuclear energy.

Occupational radiation protection will be the topic of an IAEA conference in September, which will discuss technical and regulatory advances, challenges and opportunities since the last conference on the topic organized in 2014. For more information, see the conference webpage.

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