EU proposes radiation protection directive

The European Commission has proposed a new comprehensive European Union radiation protection directive that would take account of workers’ exposure to both natural and artificial sources of radiation in a wide range of industries.

Brussels has acted upon 2007 recommendations from the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP), upon whose expertise Euratom legislation is generally based. This latest guidance included new detail on any exposure “irrespective whether the source of radiation is man-made or natural.”

A Commission memorandum said, “A large proportion of workers in industries processing naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM) receive doses above the dose limit for members of the public, but still do not benefit from protection as occupationally exposed workers. This anomaly is not sustainable.” Furthermore, the memorandum stressed, “Exposure to indoor [ground based] radon … is far more important than exposure from any other radiation source. Recent epidemiological studies have confirmed that lung cancer may be caused by exposure to radon.”

In future, assuming the proposals are approved by the EU Council of Ministers, a new directive “laying down basic safety standards for protection against the dangers arising from exposure to ionising radiation” would make it very clear which industries should protect their workers against natural radiation.

Meanwhile, Commission officials also want to take advantage of the review to simplify EU radiation protection legislation by incorporating some separate but related laws into the directive. This would include the Euratom medical directive, the HASS (high-activity sealed radioactive sources and orphan sources) directive, the outside workers directive and the public information directive.

The directive would not apply to radionuclides naturally contained in the human body; to ground level cosmic radiation; and aboveground exposure to radionuclides present in the undisturbed Earth’s crust.

Courtesy of WNN