The School Event
This was held on Monday 28th April 2014 in the Southport theatre and conference centre. 600 pupils from 20 Merseyside, Cheshire and Lancashire schools attended the event designed to raise awareness of radiation in our society and promote the science of radiation usage and radiation protection.
The Floral Hall exhibition space saw 24 organisations create interactive displays on the subject of radiation and how it is used and managed by those organisations. In addition, a poster display section was created to display informative posters on the use of radiation in society.
As part of its societal outreach, IRS had one of those exhibition spaces and several members of staff volunteered their services on the day. The exhibition stand gave the visiting children an insight in to the work of a medical physics and radiation protection organisation and the types of instrumentation used in its day-to-day activities. IRS also gave the children an opportunity to test their physics knowledge with some interactive “toys” designed to demonstrate physics in action in the real world. The exhibition stand was manned by both graduate level physicists and our new apprentice recruits and demonstrates clearly that a career in physics can encompass all educational levels.
In conjunction with the exhibition, the children were able to watch, listen to and interact during a dedicated lecture entitled “Radiation … Don’t Panic”. This one hour lecture presented by Dr. Mike Wood and colleagues from the University of Salford sought to highlighted some of the natural aspects of radiation and ways in which we can protect ourselves from the harmful effects of radiation. Pupil interaction was key to ensuring that the audience remained awake and attentive and there were several opportunities for the children to get involved in the lecture. Paul Connolly, one of IRSs Radiation Protection Advisers, was “volunteered” to act as a radiation “target” and in a demonstration of the three principles of practical radiation protection (distance, shielding and time) was “bombarded” several hundred times by gamma photons (Nerf gun darts) ejected from a gamma source (15 year old schoolboy firing a Nerf gun), all to the delight of the attending audience (pupils, teachers and colleagues alike).
The Society for Radiological Protection annual conference 2014
After the controlled mayhem of the schools event, the conference proper kicked off on Tuesday morning, 29th April and ran for the next three days finishing on 1st May.
With a theme of Radiation Protection GOALS (Guidance, Operational Experience, ALARP, Legislation, Sustainability) the 300 plus delegates were able to listen to a range of radiation protection lectures pertinent to the conference theme both via plenary and parallel sessions. In addition, refresher courses and workshops were held on some of the more pressing practical issues that face radiation protection professionals.
Refresher courses were held in two parallel sessions and covered RPA recertification, the CRadP syllabus and maintaining CPD, Radiation Protection Equipment (RPE) and Internal Dosimetry.
1. RPA Recertification – improving your chance of success
This refresher course, aimed at existing certificate holders, presented an overview of the recertification scheme and attempted to provide some detail as to the requirements for demonstrating competency from learning based activities and competence (practical) based activities. This session generated some discussion as to what constituted good evidence and what would not be acceptable to an assessor. One of the main take home messages of the sessions was to try to think like an assessor and to think about, if you were an assessor, “how would you like to see evidence presented?”.
2. Internal Dosimetry
This refresher course provided an opportunity to revise the situations where internal dosimetry would be required and some of the common methods of undertaking internal dosimetry. The course reiterated the annual dose limits from IRR99 and internal dosimetry quantities (committed dose, annual limit of intake, derived air concentration). Algorithms for determining whether an activity requires internal dosimetry were reviewed together with practical examples of monitoring (air sampling, WBM and bioassay). The refresher course also took in mathematical modelling and sources of information. Finally there were some examples followed of calculating internal dose including an example of an internal dose investigation.
3. CRadP Syllabus and maintaining CPD
Refresher courses 3 and 4 ran in parallel with 1 and 2 respectively.
Following the official opening and welcome address given by the current president of SRP, Professor Peter Marsden, the opening plenary session of the conference took place on the afternoon of Tuesday 29th April:
5. The John Dunster Memorial Lecture entitled “ALRAP, RP Culture and More: Joining up the Dots and the People
The John Dunster Memorial Lecture was given by John Croft formerly of the NRPB/HPA and a past president of the society. The lecture traced the history of radiation protection culture in the UK and abroad particular the concept of ALARA as it developed from the Radioactive Substances Act 1960 and on through the 70s and 80s to the present day. The lecture included such insights as to what industries the ALARA concept could be applied to and how the ALARA message was disseminated across the UK and Europe through the various training initiatives established by the European Commission and the IAEA. The lecture also referenced the role of IRPA the SRP, as the UK representative body to IRPA in promoting the message of ALARA and a safe radiation protection culture. Finally the lecture gave an overview of recent initiatives in improving RP culture such as the SRP schools event and the establishment of workshops and engagement with the various stakeholders in radiation protection.
The remainder of the first day of the conference comprised three lectures on lessons to be learnt by the UK nuclear industry and the office of nuclear regulation (ONR) on the Fukushima accident in 2011, the return of fauna and flora to contaminated land around the Chernobyl nuclear reactor and a method of delivering practical radiation protection training to the emergency services.
6. The Fukushima Dai-ichi Accident
This lecture presented an overview of the role of the ONR, and summarised the lessons for the UK on emergency preparedness should a similar accident occur here. The ONR concluded that there needs to be an improved national framework for nuclear emergency planning, where emergency plans. Improvements to modelling radioactive material dispersal and improvement in providing countermeasures and information to the general public are required. The lecture concluded that the UK nuclear industry needs better on-site and off-site emergency control together with the provision of instrumentation and controls. Finally there is a need to provide enhanced training and testing of arrangements for dealing with the response to nuclear accidents.
7. Chernobyl diaries – reducing uncertainty in environmental radiation protection
This highly entertaining presentation by Mike Wood from Salford outlined a research project that is looking at ways in which environmental monitoring is currently being done through various modelling regimes and comparing this with alternative methods involving direct observation and monitoring of animals within the environment. The project will directly assess the doses to animals in and around Chernobyl using passive monitors together with sample collection for bioassay to determine internal doses.
8. Delivering practical RP training to the emergency services
Christina McClatchey presented a method of providing RP training, which included practical exercises and workshops. Also covered was the provision of training to local A&E staff in such things simple monitoring using the RAMGNE. The training exercise came up with several conclusions including ensuring that the expectations of the emergency services are appropriately managed in a training environment, keeping information databases on likely radionuclides up to date and clearly defining roles and responsibilities.
Day 2 of the conference had lectures run as parallel sessions with the morning sessions being largely devoted to presentations given by those people who had submitted a presentation for the Young Professionals Award (YPA).
The early morning session consisted of four presentations for the YPA and a parallel session concerned with decommissioning of a radiochemistry building at Salford University and the retrieval and size reduction of redundant fuel skips.
Introduced for the first time at Harrogate in 2013 there was once again a competition for the Young Professionals Award. Unlike Harrogate, this time patient dosimetry in the medical sector was well represented although it was interesting to note that the medical sector presentations were restricted to NHS establishments and that two presentations covered the broadly similar topic of patient doses in cardiac procedures. This is not to say, of course, that the presentations were sub-standard or in any way lacking. Indeed all of the YPA presentations, both medical and non-medical, were of an excellent standard, well researched and presented. Congratulations go to Adam Jones for his presentation on ‘Optimisation of image quality and patient dose in radiographs of paediatric extremities using DDR’, which won the YPA. This session, however, was completed by an excellent presentation form Bob Kerr. In 2013 Bob attempted to climb Mount Everest but at the same time conducted some research in to doses received from exposure to cosmic rays at high altitude. As part of the monitoring kit Bob carried the new Instadose 2 personal monitors (more on this later).
The second parallel session of the morning (running from 10:40am until 12:10) was again split between a series of papers from candidates for the YPA and a parallel session of general papers.
The YPA presentations included:
Chernobyl – A graduates tale, which looked at the impact of the Chernobyl accident, its impact on the current population of the area and what the future holds for the region and town of Prypiat in particular.
The challenges of establishing a radiation protection culture in a country not yet aligned with the IAEA BSS.
Evaluation of RP factors of MOD-issued protective eyewear. Such eyewear is issued to MOD personnel for protection from other sources. This paper looked at the efficacy of the eyewear for shielding from radiation exposure.
Determining alarm levels for exit monitoring equipment.
In parallel to the YPA presentations there were presentations from DSTL on training the next generation of radiation protection personnel for the MOD, a presentation reviewing ALARP at AWE. The presentation reviewed current practices at AWE in ensuring ALARP and how this could and should be improved upon leading toward the revision of IRR99 expected in 2018.
The final presentation before lunch was given by Kip Bennett of Mirion technologies. In particular Kip presented the latest advances in personal monitoring, namely the Instadose 2 monitor, which was used by Bob Kerr during his Everest expedition. With the dwindling supply of film, Instadose 2 is likely to provide a technological leap forward in personal monitoring. Although no date for routine use has been set it is expected to be HSE approved shortly.
The afternoon session of day 2 was again a parallel session. Session 1 was devoted to non-ionising radiations whilst session 2 focussed on the requirements for putting together an RWA portfolio. The RWA session was well attended and covered such topics as an overview of RWA certification process, the requirements for BAT assessments and what the Environment Agency expect to see in a BAT assessment; an overview of the EAs IRAT spreadsheet and how it can be used to carry out an environmental impact assessment; a presentation on atmospheric dispersion models. This presentation described the various modelling tools used to predict the dispersal of radioactive materials in the atmosphere.
Probably of most use to those delegates attending the RWA session was the chance to carry out a table top exercise on environmental impact assessment using the Environment Agency’s IRAT spreadsheet. This very useful exercise, lead by the Agency’s RSR Technical specialist, Amber Bannon, gave delegates the opportunity to use the IRAT spreadsheet to assess the impact of radioactive substance discharges to the environment. This interactive exercise was very informative and probably of most use to those delegates working in the medical sector.
Following the close of day 2 of the conference the delegates had the opportunity to let their hair down at the conference dinner where we were royally entertained with speeches and an awards ceremony before carrying on dancing to live music into the wee small hours. Unfortunately this author had to leave the party early in order to be able to be at another appointment the following day.