Significant progress made on radiation protection in Ireland

Date released: Nov 29 2011

RPII Publish Annual Report for 2010.

The Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) has welcomed Government action on the country’s two most pressing radiation protection issues, the need for a national radioactive waste management policy and for a national radon strategy.

The RPII’s 2010 Annual Report, published today also highlights Ireland’s efficient and effective response to the nuclear accident in Fukushima, Japan, in March this year. 

Marking the publication of the report Dr Ann McGarry, Chief Executive of the RPII said, “The development of a national radioactive waste management policy and more recently, the establishment of an inter-agency group to develop a national radon control strategy for Ireland, are significant developments. We have long been of the view that a government wide approach was needed to address these two important radiation protection issues and that is what is happening now.”

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. The Government has now agreed to the recommendations of the group on the need for an inventory reduction programme, the establishment of a national interim storage facility and arrangements for the short-term emergency storage of seized or orphan (no identifiable owner) radioactive sources. The RPII is actively participating in the Implementation Committee established to bring this work to a successful conclusion. 

National radon control strategy 

The RPII is pleased to note the Government decision to approve the establishment of an inter-agency group comprising representatives from relevant public authorities to develop a National Radon Control Strategy for Ireland. This initiative, which builds on the progress already made in addressing the radon problem in Ireland, is in line with best international practice as outlined by the World Health Organisation. The group is tasked with recommending a strategy to reduce the number of cases of lung cancer from this radioactive gas.

Nuclear Safety

“The accident in Fukushima, Japan in March this year showed that despite major efforts internationally to improve nuclear safety, serious accidents can still occur at nuclear facilities. The ramifications of the accident are still being managed locally, however given the distance between Ireland and Japan there were no health implications in Ireland.” said Dr McGarry.

The work completed by RPII in emergency preparedness and response over the last number of years and the joint working arrangements with key departments and agencies under the National Emergency Plan for Nuclear Accidents ensured that Ireland was able to mobilise its resources effectively and efficiently. Through its international contacts and based on its own radioactivity measurements, the RPII provided reliable and accurate information to the Government, the public, the media and also addressed the concerns of Irish citizens based in Japan. 

As a result of the accident the EU has devised stress tests which are now underway at all European nuclear power plants to determine their resilience to extreme events and adequacy of their severe accident management capabilities. This work is coordinated at a European level and a report on the outcomes of the stress tests is due by mid 2012. The RPII represents Ireland in the technical aspects of this process and is committed to playing its part in ensuring that the tests are comprehensive and transparent and that deficiencies found are properly addressed. 

Other highlights from the 2010 Annual Report include: 

  • 5371 radon measurements in homes were completed with 9 homes identified with radon levels ten times the national Reference Level.
  • 65 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 1737.
  • 235 inspections were carried out during the year.
  • No workers exceeded the annual dose limit of 20 millisieverts.
  • Doses to typical seafood consumers were less than 1 microsievert compared to the annual average dose of 3950 microsieverts from all sources.
  • The RPII took part in 7 international emergency exercises. 

ENDS 

Notes to editors 

An executive summary of the 2010 annual report is available

The full annual report and accounts for 2010 in English and in Irish are also available for download. 

About the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) 

The Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) is the national organisation with regulatory, monitoring and advisory responsibilities in matters relating to ionising radiation. In particular, the RPII concerns itself with hazards to health associated with ionising radiation and with radioactive contamination in the environment. The RPII is an independent public body under the aegis of the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government and was established in 1992 under the Radiological Protection Act, 1991. The RPII’s role is to ensure that Irish people and the environment are adequately protected from the harmful effects of ionising radiation. The RPII do this by providing advice to the public and the Government, by monitoring people’s exposure to radiation, by regulating and licensing those who use radiation, by providing technical support to Ireland’s plan to deal with radiation emergencies (NEPNA) and by cooperating with similar bodies internationally.