Vice-President Roger Coates Represents IRPA at the IAEA International Experts Meeting on Radiation Protection after the Fukushima NPP Accident

The presentation delivered by Roger Coates can be found here.

Here is his Record of Note:

International Experts Meeting on Radiation Protection after the Fukushima NPP Accident

IEM6, IAEA Vienna, 17-21 February 2014

This international meeting was part of IAEA’s Action Plan set up following the Fukushima accident, with the objective of exchanging information and experiences relating to radiation protection, with emphasis on preparing for and managing the long term consequences of a nuclear or radiological accident. All the major international organisations were invited to present their views and conclusions, with IRPA represented by Vice President Roger Coates. The organisers also encouraged the widest attendance by younger practitioners and those representing countries not always present at such fora. This resulted in around 250 persons attending, from 69 different countries.

The meeting heard that the discharges during the Fukushima event had been around one tenth of those from the Chernobyl accident, with I131 and Cs134/7 being the dominant nuclides. Exposures were such that no short term health effects had been observed in either workers or the public, and the expectation was that doses were too low for any long term direct health effects of radiation to be observable in the future. In part this is because of successful interventions applied by the authorities in terms of milk restrictions, stable iodine administration and evacuation measures. However, it is clear that wider health effects impacting social and mental wellbeing have been evident, and that these need to be addressed both in planning for future emergencies and in the ongoing remediation and rehabilitation efforts in Japan.

Against this background it could be concluded that, taken broadly, the System of Protection had worked well during the management of the event, to the extent that direct health effects had been avoided. However, the meeting concluded that it was necessary to make several improvements to make the system more resilient. The principal areas of focus are discussed below.

IRPA’s priorities presented at the meeting, which were widely supported, focus around three related issues:

·         Ensuring that the system of protection is not overly complex and is ethically and socially underpinned

·         Ensuring that the system can be adequately understood by all our stakeholders, and is seen as ‘believable’

·         The need to put much more effort into public communication generally.

These are issues with which all practitioners should be engaged through IRPA (“the International Voice of the Radiation Protection Profession”) and our Associate Societies. We are currently working with ICRP on a programme addressing Ethical Issues in the System of Protection, with the aim of consolidating and where possible simplifying the system of protection, ensuring alignment with ethical values and providing a better basis for communication. IRPA is also engaged in supporting our societies and practitioners to become more effective and proficient in public education and understanding of radiation risk. This is an absolutely key issue coming out of the Fukushima findings, and we are well placed to be a trusted, independent source of information. This was illustrated at the meeting by the work of the Japan Health Physics Society during the Fukushima crisis, where they arranged a web-based rapid Q&A exchange for members of the public.

Another area where IRPA was recognised as a key player was in developing our future radiation protection professionals. Our emphasis on training, education and professionalism, together with support for Young Professionals through involvement in major congresses and providing networking opportunities, was recognised as a key to securing a healthy future for our profession. Many younger professionals took important roles in this meeting as presenters, session chairs or rapporteurs.

There are of course many other issues of importance for the future development of the system of protection, many of which are of a more technical nature, including:

·         improved linkage between the emergency and rehabilitation phases

·         the need to include all health effects, including mental and social, in the decision processes

·         management of food and water in the aftermath of an emergency, in particular the convergence of international standards in this field

·         the need for greater societal engagement, particularly of local communities, in decision making on decontamination and rehabilitation [Note: this was a very striking outcome of the considerations, with many examples of the importance of direct local action by residents, including for example ‘citizen monitoring’ of radiation levels and the importance of communication by social media. This gives particular importance to the above intent to make the public better informed on radiation risks].

All the presentations from the meeting are available on the IAEA website1, as are the formal conclusions of the meeting. The IRPA presentation is also available through our website [ ].


Roger Coates

IRPA Vice President


6 March 2014