RPII calls on the Government to take further steps on radiation protection

Date released: Dec 22 2010

National strategies on radon gas and radioactive waste management are urgently needed, RPII.

The Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) has again urged the Government to step up its action on the country’s two most pressing radiation protection issues, the development of a national radioactive waste management policy and a national radon strategy. In its annual report, published today, the RPII said that while some progress had been made, it was important that momentum on these serious issues was not lost. 

Dr Ann McGarry, Chief Executive of the RPII said: “Significant progress has been made on both issues with the setting up of a high level group to develop a national radioactive waste management policy and the Minister for the Environment Heritage and Local Government preparing a proposal for Government that would establish a National Strategy Development Group on radon. However, if these actions are not advanced to the next stage, the progress made to date may be lost.

“A lot of time, effort and resources have been invested in developing solutions to these issues. The RPII has worked tirelessly to highlight the dangers of not taking action, to provide solutions to these problems and has helped to drive progress made to date. We have put these issues on the Government agenda, and we hope that this effort will not be in vain.” 

National radioactive waste management policy 

In 2008 an interdepartmental High Level Group was established to consider possible options for a national radioactive waste management policy. This group has now prepared and submitted an interim report with recommendations to the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Currently, disused radioactive sources are held at 80 different locations around the country.

“The RPII’s advice is that the current arrangements are not in keeping with international best practice and represent an increasingly serious concern from the point of view of safety and security. Two incidents of concern involving equipment containing radioactive sources occurred in Ireland during 2009: one item was lost and not recovered, and there was an unauthorised shipment of another to Norway for disposal. The availability in Ireland of a national facility for the storage of disused sources would mean that sources such as these that have reached the end of their useful life, could be stored safely, thereby reducing the risk of loss or mishandling.” 

“A sustainable solution for disused radioactive sources needs to be put in place and we would hope that the recommendations from the High Level Group are agreed and implemented by government,” according to Dr McGarry. 

National Radon Control Strategy 

During 2009, the RPII worked with the Health Service Executive, the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, the Health and Safety Authority and Local Authorities on the development of a joint approach to dealing with the high levels of cancer-causing radon gas in Irish homes. Arising from this the RPII understands that the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, John Gormley, T.D is preparing a proposal for Government that would establish a National Strategy Development Group on radon. 

“Exposure to radon gas kills up to 200 people in Ireland each year. Addressing the problem of exposure to radon in Irish homes and workplaces remains a key priority for the RPII and a unified Government-led National Radon Control Strategy is essential if we are to protect people from the harmful effects of this gas,” according to Dr McGarry. 

Other Highlights from the Annual Report include: 

  • During 2009, 2550 radon measurements were completed with 8 homes identified with levels in excess of 2000 becquerels per cubic metre (Bq/m3) – ten times the acceptable level.
  • An additional 102 new licences were issued during the year for the custody and use of radioactive sources and equipment bringing the total number of licensees in Ireland to 1735.
  • The RPII’s programme of monitoring radioactivity in the environment from man-made sources such as Sellafield, the remnants of the Chernobyl accident and weapons testing in the 1950s and 1960s shows that the doses do not constitute a health risk and are very small compared with the dose received from natural radiation.
  • The RPII launched a new website with features including an interactive radon map, a tool to estimate people’s radiation dose and access to real-time monitoring data.  

An executive summary of the 2009 annual report is available 

The full annual report and accounts for 2009 in English and in Irish are also available.