Since 1980 the ALARA principle has been part of the European Basic Safety Standards and has been progressively introduced into national regulations. In the Euratom Directive 96-29 ALARA was re-emphasised as the cornerstone of the radiological protection system. Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s ALARA was integrated into many organisations radiation protection programmes, particularly in the nuclear industry. However there was still much to be done espacially in the non-nuclear industry as well as for the management of internal exposure.
Therefore in 1996 the European Commission created a European ALARA Network (EAN), to further specific European research on topics dealing with optimization of radiation protection, as well as to facilitate the dissemination of good ALARA practices within the European industry, research and medical sectors. After the end of the financial support of the European Commission, in 2005, EAN became self sustainable as a not-for-profit association under the French law. 20 countries are participating to the network, which is coordinate by CEPN and PHE.
Since 1980 the ALARA principle has been part of the European Basic Safety Standards and has been progressively introduced into national regulations. In the Euratom Directive 96-29 ALARA was re-emphasised as the cornerstone of the radiological protection system. Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s ALARA was integrated into many organisations radiation protection programmes, particularly in the nuclear industry. However there was still much to be done especially in the non-nuclear industry as well as for the management of internal exposure.
Therefore in 1996 the European Commission created a European ALARA Network (EAN), to further specific European research on topics dealing with optimization of all types of occupational exposure, as well as to facilitate the dissemination of good ALARA practices within all sectors of the European industry and research. CEPN (Centre d'étude sur l'Evaluation de la Protection dans le domaine Nucléaire, France) took on the role of the Network Coordinator with NRPB (National Radiological Protection Board, UK) providing support. The key outputs were to be twice yearly Newsletters and an annual themed Workshop that was to provide recommendations to the EC and other stakeholders involved in radiation protection.
During 9 years, the EC provided various tranches of funding to enable the Network to establish itself:
- The EAN was set up following a request of EC DG Research in its fourth framework program of research and development (1996 – 2000) - Network report period 1996-1999 (pdf);
- Support was continued during the 5th Framework Programme (FPRD 2001-2004) - Network report period 2001-2004 (pdf);
- EC DG Environment supported financially the first three Workshops; the financing of the following Workshops was included in the research project of the fifth FPRD;
- EC DG Environment also provided some funding during a 12 months interim period between the 4th and 5th FRPD.
In June 2005, after these 9 years spent within the scope of the research programs from the European Commission, the EAN Steering Group unanimously adopted a Cooperation Charter, the Terms and Conditions of the EAN, for defining the new goals and means for the next decade. The Steering Group also decided to set up a legal entity for managing the network coordination and financing in a self sustainable way. This legal entity was set up for an initial period of 5 years in July 2005 as a not for profit association called “Réseau ALARA Européen – European ALARA Network, EAN” registered under the French law.
In 2010, the EAN Steering Group decided to extend the duration of the EAN association for another period of 5 years. In parallel, it was also decided to renew the Statutes and the Terms and Conditions of EAN to take into account feedback experiences of the network's operation. Finally, the EAN Steering Group also agreed on a Strategic Plan for 2010-2015, which described the expected work of EAN during this period taking into account the future challenges of the practical implementation of ALARA.
The original objectives of EAN were:
- To promote the wider and more uniform use of optimisation techniques in the various fields of occupational application in Europe
- To provide a focus and a mechanism for the exchange and dissemination of information from practical experience
- To propose topical issues of interest that should be subject of European meetings, workshops or research projects
These objectives have been progressively expanded. Similarly the scope of the Network, which was originally limited to improving occupational exposure in industry and research only, was expanded; first to include occupational exposure in medical and Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORM) areas, and then to other types of exposures. Finally in 2010, the objective has been simplified at the occasion of the renewal of the EAN Terms and Conditions:
- Promote a wider and more uniform implementation of the ALARA principle for the management of worker, public and patient exposures in all situations,
- Provide a focus and a mechanism for the exchange and dissemination of information from practical ALARA experiences,
- Identify and investigate topical issues of common interest to further improve the implementation of ALARA.
EAN is coordinated by a Steering Group comprising one nominated institute-member per country. Currently, 20 countries are represented: Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK. The technical and administrative management of EAN is ensured by a Coordination Team, composed of CEPN (Centre d'études pour l'Evaluation de la Protection dans le domaine Nucléaire, France) and PHE (Public Health England, United-Kingdom) staff members.
The Steering Group members may be any type of stakeholder concerned with radiation protection. The Steering Group decides the work programme and planning of the network activities; in particular it takes decisions on:
- The topics for the ALARA Workshops
- The contents of the ALARA Newsletters and EAN Website
- The selection of topical issues or events relevant to European radiation protection practices,
- The selection of topics for establishing sub-networks or working groups,
- The policy for publication or any other form of dissemination of the results of the work of EAN.
Several countries have decided to financially support EAN coordination, while others will support specific EAN actions such as Workshops. Those institutes financially supporting the coordination of EAN are members of the EAN association Administrative Board as well as the Coordination Team. A close link with the European Commission is pursued through the support of sub-networks in several domains of concern (Non Destructive Testing, NORM, medical ). In addition, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) supports the participation of representatives from non-EAN countries to EAN workshops and agreements are set up with IAEA to co-operate, and ultimately merge with another network of Eurasian countries.
The cooperation with other networks with interests in the practical implementation of ALARA is encouraged. Thus EAN has established formal cooperation agreements with the following organisations :
- The European Federation of Non-Destructive Testing (EFNDT),
- The European Federation of Organisations for Medical Physics (EFOMP),
- The European Federation of Radiographer Societies (EFRS).
From the beginning, EANs most important events have been the annual Workshops devoted to specific topics where it is thought that significant improvements are still possible and may be expected. with the aim of sharing experiences, promoting debates and drawing conclusions and recommendations to be widely diffused and disseminated towar relevant stakeholders. Each Workshop gives rise to a set of recommendations to the European Commission, to the national regulatory bodies and to other stakeholders in order to facilitate the practical implementation of ALARA.The first twelve Workshops were devoted to:
- ALARA and Decommissioning (1997, Saclay, France)
- Good Radiation Protection Practices in Industry and Research (1998, Chilton, UK)
- Managing Internal Exposure (1999, Munich, Germany)
- Management of occupational radiological and non-radiological risks: lessons to be learned (2000, Antwerp, Belgium)
- Industrial Radiography: Improvments in Radiation Protection (2001, Rome, Italy)
- Occupational Exposure Optimisation in the Medical and Radiopharmaceutical sectors (2002, Madrid, Spain)
- Decommissioning of Installations and Site Remediation (2003, Arnhem, The Netherlands)
- Occupational Radiological Protection Control through Inspection and Self-Assessment (2004, Uppsala, Sweden)
- Occupational Exposure to Natural Radiation (2005, Augsburg, Germany)
- Experience and new developments in implementing ALARA in occupational, public and patient exposures (2006, Prague, Czech Republic)
- ALARA in Radioactive Waste Management (2008, Athens, Greece)
- ALARA issues arising for Safety and Security of Radiation Sources and Security Screening Devices (2009, Vienna, Austria)
- ALARA in the medical sector (2011, Oscarborg fortress, Norway)
From the beginning, EAN has also published the ALARA Newsletter twice a year to disseminate practical. cases of ALARA implementation, examples of good practices, lessons learned, workshop conclusions, ALARA information, etc. Feedback from different sources indicates that the Newsletters reach several thousand individuals or institutions, mainly in Europe, and that the lessons learned from incidents are among the most interesting information.
By 2000, it was decided to make use of EAN as a vehicle to support European surveys on topics of interest to radiological protection. The first survey dealt with the actual implementation of the European BSS (2000). Its results were presented in the Newsletter 9 in 2001. An update was presented during the 10th Workshop in 2006. Other surveys dealt with the incidents data exchange (2000 - 2002) and the implementation of the EC Directive on outside workers (2004 - 2005). Many other surveys have also been performed.
Finally, working groups and sub-networks are established on topics of particular interest. Sub-networks are meant to be sustainable, whereas working groups are created for a limited period of time. In 2005 the European Radioprotection Authorities Network (ERPAN) was set up to deal with operational exchanges on regulation and control activities such as specific inspections and transcription of EC Directives into national regulations. In 2009, a working group on ALARA culture has been set up.
In 2014, the EAN Steering Group decided to extend the duration of the EAN association for another period of 5 years. A Strategic Agenda for the 2015-2020 was drafted at the occasion of a brainstorming seminar that took place in June 2014. This Strategic Agenda aims to replace the former EAN Strategic Plan 2010 - 2015 and described the expected work of EAN during the period with regard to the challenges at stake
EAN Strategic Agenda 2015 - 2020 (pdf, 455 KB).
New Challenges for ALARA
The context of radiological protection worldwide reveals several priority areas and confirms there are still many challenges in the ALARA field. The management of existing exposure situations will be one of the most important radiation protection challenges in the forthcoming years, notably in the field of radon and NORM. Furthermore, the feedback from the Fukushima accident has shown that the optimisation of exposures in emergency and post-accident situations is challenging.
There is still a need for the establishment and improvement of ALARA practices in the medical sector to keep pace with the development of new imaging techniques. The number of exposed individuals (both patients and practitioners) and the magnitude of the doses received (individual and collective) indicate that there is much more scope for ALARA.
The industrial radiography sector cannot be forgotten as it still shows high individual doses compare to other secores and reguarly feed the news with incidents. Optimisation, for example through the setting and use of dose constraints, and justification with respect to the choice of inspection technique, both need to be considered.
EAN can play a role in these sectors by influencing and evaluating the practical implementation of ALARA and helping with the diffusion of radiological protection culture. The Strategic Agenda should take these topics into accounts as well as favouring partnerships and collaborations with other concerned organisations.
EAN was a "fisrt-of-its-kind" network and its structure and management has since inspired several other networks. The Strategic Agenda is an opportunity to revisit the EAN model, the position, role and activities of the Network and to increase its visibility. Stakeholder involvement should be a constant theme, as well as the participation of the younger generation in the Network.
EAN Members shared Interests
Promotion of a practical implementation of ALARA
The need for, and significance of, applying the ALARA principle are stated in ICRP recommendations, as well as in European/International Basic Safety Standards, and in national regulations. It is the role of the radiation protection community to convert the ALARA principle into individual and collective acts and behaviours. There is still room for improving the practical implementation of ALARA and for reaching a better harmonisation in radiation protection policies and practices, at the European level.
Dissemination of ALARA culture
EAN must contribute to the definition, contextualisation, evolution and dissemination of ALARA culture by promoting the practical implementation of the ALARA principle in every sector of activity that imply a radiological risk for the workers or the public, in all exposure situations.
EAN is a non-institutional platform of radiation protection specialists, who do consider the feedback exchange through networking and co-operation as one of the most effective and efficient ways of improving the practical implementation of ALARA, in all sectors of activity.
Strategic Objectives of EAN for 2015-2020
Focus the work on key ALARA issues
- Encouraging relationships and partnerships with other concerned organisations on the challenging issues
- Organisatio of topical Workshops and production of recommendations and other relevant documents
- Elaboration of feedback documents from the Workshops and follow-up of recommendations
- Establishment of working groups on challenging issues, by the initiative of EAN Members or other organisations
Increase stakeholder involvement
- Targeted invitations to the Workshops and encourage participation of stakeholders to EAN activities.
- Promote the involvement of new, or poorly represented, stakeholders such as manufacturers, employers, employees and representatives of the public
Involvement of the younger generation in the Network
- Set up a mentoring scheme for new members
- Promotion of the Workshops participation for possible new members
- Participation of possible new members through EAN activities
Communication and visibility
- Publication in scientific journals (nuclear, medical and safety-related journals)
- Promotion of the Network through social media
- EAN attendance and presentations at national and international conferences and other events