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Sri Lanka on the Way to Harmonize Occupational Radiation Protection with the International Basic Safety Standards

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Part of the ORPAS team reviews occupational radiation protection measures in research and education in the Department of Nuclear Science, University of Colombo. (Photo: K. Gamage/SLAEB)

Sri Lanka’s programme to monitor workers exposed to radiation through their jobs is well-established and would benefit from long-term planning, sustainable coordination and stronger cooperation and consultation among stakeholders. This was the conclusion of an IAEA Occupational Radiation Protection Appraisal Service (ORPAS) mission to the country conducted last month.

Sri Lanka requested an ORPAS mission to help review measures in place to protect workers against possible harmful effects of radiation exposure, four years after the establishment of its independent national regulatory body.

This appraisal service independently evaluates a country’s occupational radiation protection programme against international safety standards by a team of experts. The IAEA has already conducted such services in 19 countries.

“Our main motivation to request this ORPAS peer review was to identify the shortcomings of the existing programme and further requirements as given in the IAEA International Basic Safety Standards,” said Prasad Mahakumara, ORPAS National Coordinator and Director of the Radiation Protection and Technical Services Division at the Sri Lanka Atomic Energy Board (SLAEB). There are 1727 workers exposed to radiation in medical, research and education, agriculture and industrial applications.

Based on the appraisal outcomes, Sri Lanka intends to harmonize the national regulations in line with the occupational exposure control requirements in the International Basic Safety Standards on Radiation Protection and Safety of Radiation Sources. This means to establish for example, guidance on dose constraints, radiation protection program by the license holders, and harmonization of health surveillance program.

Key operational areas also need to comply with the IAEA Safety Standards requirements, the reviewers have concluded. To evaluate these efforts, experts from Australia, Serbia, France, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Netherlands visited operational facilities such as hospitals, industrial facilities along with research and training centres, the Sri Lanka Atomic Energy Regulatory Council (SLAERC) and also technical service providers such as SLAEB, individual monitoring service, secondary standard dosimetry laboratory and radiation protection technical services.

“We have seen consistent improvements in compliance with the IAEA Safety Standards in many key operational areas of occupational radiation protection, but further efforts are needed,” said Burcin Okyar, IAEA Radiation Safety Specialist and the IAEA ORPAS Coordinator. This especially applies to interventional procedures in medicine, in industrial applications, exposures to natural sources such as in the mining and processing of ores other than uranium, he added.

The Way Forward

“The Sri Lanka Atomic Energy Regulatory Council, the Sri Lanka Atomic Energy Board and the operators are now responsible for implementing recommendations and suggestions given to each of them,” said Mahakumara. “It is expected to prepare an action plan involving all the counterparts,” he added.

“We also plan to improve the extremity and internal dosimetry services and to improve the quality assurance and quality control of the radiation protection services to build up the trust between the service provider and the operators,” he continued.

One of the recommendations is to establish a national dose registry, a repository of dose records of individuals who are monitored for occupational exposures. This can support the oversight of occupational doses from all exposure situations.

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