2020 ANS Virtual Winter Meeting: President’s Special Session

ANS President Mary Lou Dunzik-Gougar took to the video screen on November 18 during the 2020 ANS Virtual Winter Meeting for the President’s Special Session on radiation risk, echoing a comment by Exelon Nuclear’s Bryan Hanson, the Winter Meeting’s general cochair, who earlier in the week characterized radiation as one of the most misunderstood aspects of nuclear.

“I think that’s very true,” Dunzik-Gougar said. “So much misconception and misunderstanding. I have always had a passion for communicating about such things as radiation, helping people understand the nature of radiation and the relative risks of nuclear, but mostly about its benefits. But I think we in the industry can better prepare ourselves with knowledge about radiation and its impacts and also educate ourselves on how to talk about the risks of radiation with people not in our own echo chambers to help change the perception among a broader scope of people.”

The panel of experts assembled to help impart some of that knowledge to session attendees included Amir A. Bahadori, assistant professor at Kansas State University; Donald A. Cool, a technical executive at the Electric Power Research Institute and a former senior executive at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission; Paul Locke, associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; and Shaheen Dewji, assistant professor at Texas A&M University.

Feature Article

Harnessing the promise of radiation: The art of reasonableness

Radiation has benefited mankind in many ways, including its use as an energy source and an indispensable tool in medicine. Since the turn of the 20th century, society has sought ways to harness its potential, while at the same time recognizing that radiological exposures need to be carefully controlled. Out of these efforts, and the work of many dedicated professionals, the principles of justification, optimization, and limitation have emerged as guiding concepts.

Justification means that the use of radiation, from any radiation source, must do more good than harm. The concept of optimization calls for the use of radiation at a level that is as low as reasonably achievable (ALARA). Dose constraints, or limitation, are meant to assist in reaching optimization and protection against harm by setting recommended numerical levels of radiation exposure from a particular source or sources. Together, these three principles form the bedrock of the international radiation protection system that drives decision-­making and supports societal confidence that radiation is being used in a responsible manner.