Most countries around the world have adopted the concept of “ As Low As Is Reasonably Achievable ( ALARA )” for their guiding principle in radiation protection , while the UK has adopted the concept of “ As Low As Reasonably Practicable ( ALARP )”. Why have we done this and what are the differences ?
ALARA ALARA was introduced in the 1970s by the US Atomic Energy Commission to ensure the benefits of nuclear power outweighed the number of deaths . ALARA has since been widely adopted in radiation protection legislation outside the UK in compliance with the Recommendations of the International Commission on Radiation Protection ( ICRP ).
In 2019 The European ALARA Network produced a guide on the ALARA principle ( OPTIMIZATION OF RADIATION PROTECTION , ALARA : A Practical Guidebook ). In it , the authors note that ; “ the wording of the ALARA principle has evolved through various ICRP publications , developing the question of how far the risk should be reduced . According to ICRP Publication 101 ( ICRP , 2006 ), ALARA is a frame of mind , always questioning whether the best has been done in the prevailing circumstances . It requires a forward-looking iterative process aimed at preventing exposures before they occur . It is continuous , taking into account feedback experience as well as technical and socio-economic developments . It requires both qualitative and quantitative judgments . Thus , ALARA is an obligation of means , and not an obligation of results , in the sense that the result of ALARA depends on processes , procedures , and judgements and is not a given value of exposure .”
ALARP In UK legislation , ALARP dates back to a legal precedent set out in the trial of Edwards vs National Coal Board , [ 1949 ] 1 , All ER743 ( CA ) in a trial at the Court of Appeal . The judge said ; “ A computation must be made in which the quantum of risk is placed on one scale and the sacrifice , whether in money , time or trouble , involved in the measures necessary to avert the risk is placed in the other … and that , if shown that there is a gross disproportion between them , the risk being insignificant in relation to the sacrifice , the person upon whom the duty is laid discharges the burden of proving that compliance was not reasonably practicable ”
“ Reasonably practicable ” is a rather narrower term than “ reasonably achievable ”. Making sure a risk is reduced , ALARP is about weighing the risk against sacrifice to reduce it further and not being disproportionate . The equivalent term “ So Far As Is Reasonably Practicable ” ( SFAIRP ) was incorporated into the Health and Safety at Work etc . Act 1974 .
The judgement referred to above was unsuccessfully challenged by the European Court of Justice in 2007 . The European Commission claimed the wording “ so far as is reasonably practicable ” ( SFAIRP ) in the Health and Safety at Work etc . Act 1974 did not fully implement the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health ( OSH ) Framework Directive ( 89 / 391 / EEC ).
It is to be noted that ALARP is not simply an Ionising Radiations Regulations requirement but a requirement for all industries .
Further information on the definition and application of ALARP is given on the HSE website ( Risk management : Expert guidance - ALARP at a glance ( hse . gov . uk )).
In Summary ALARP suggests a balance between risk and benefit , rooted in case law . It is the requirement in UK law for all industries involving hazardous materials . ALARA takes social and economic factors into account and is the requirement in countries outside the UK . Both are aimed at a continual improvement in restricting dose to individuals and the environment . The question always remains : how far should the risk be reduced ?
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