New method could shed light on workers' historical radiation exposure

phys.org | 1/30/2019 | Staff
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Researchers in the UK have developed a new method for evaluating plutonium workers' historical internal radiation exposure in a study funded by the National Institute for Health Research.

They focussed their efforts on workers employed at the start of plutonium operations at the Sellafield (formerly Windscale) nuclear reprocessing facility in the UK.

Paper - Today - Journal - Radiological - Protection

In a paper published today in the Journal of Radiological Protection, the researchers describe how they developed this method and the need for this research.

Tony Riddell from the Centre for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards (CRCE), Public Health England, and the lead author explained: "With little specific information being available, potential risks from plutonium exposure have largely been controlled through knowledge of radiation exposure risks in general, much of which comes from external radiation exposures.

Estimates - Exposure - Risks - Studies - Plutonium

"To obtain more direct estimates of potential internal exposure risks, epidemiological studies of plutonium workers need to be conducted. These studies require individual plutonium exposure estimates that are as accurate and unbiased as possible.

"The UK Windscale/Sellafield workforce includes one of the world's largest cohorts of plutonium workers and, through the support of the workforce, has been the subject of previous epidemiological analyses.

Accurate - Exposure - Assessments - Workers - Start

"However, accurate and unbiased exposure assessments for more than 600 workers employed there at the start of plutonium operations, from 1952 to 1963, cannot be produced using the urinalysis monitoring results available for them: while these results were suitable for operational protection purposes at the time, they tend to substantially overestimate exposure and this would lead to underestimation of any risks if they were to be used in an epidemiological analysis.

"This means these early workers are excluded from epidemiological studies of exposure risks, which significantly reduces the power of these studies. Early workers are important for assessing potential exposure risks because they...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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