International Commission on Radiological Protection
Can ICRP's advice be applied to post-accident situations?ICRP is the source of official radiation risk estimates used by governments and regulators world-wide. The science on which ICRP bases its advice is invalid for certain types of exposure - those involving radioactivity inside the human body, especially where the elements become bound in body tissue and even more especially where they have a chemical affinity with DNA, like Uranium and Strontium which mimic calcium.Use the "dose" concept button on the left to see more detail.
The essence of the problem lies in ICRP's use of the concept of absorbed dose for all types of radiation exposure. Absorbed dose is an average of energy expressed in terms of Joules per Kilogram mass of tissue. This is valid for external radiation, like X-rays and cosmic gamma rays, but is obvious nonsense for alpha radiations, which travel a very short distance but do a lot of local damage. There are many types of exposure where the radioactive decay of a particle or an indiviual atom causes a very high density of ionisations, killing or mutating an individual cell, while giving no dose at all to other cells. The ICRP approach assumes that the energy is averaged across the whole body or a whole organ.
Officially, and according to supporters of nuclear power and radioactive weaponry, the scientific shortcomings of ICRP's position are acceptable because there is no epidemiological evidence that risk estimates based on ICRP are out of line with reality. This is why these people put so much energy into denying the health effects of Chernobyl. It's also why it is vital to track the fallout from Fukushima and its long-term effects on public health.
The alternative to ICRP - the European Committee on Radiation Risk.
ECRR's 19th March 2011 advice note on Fukushima
At LLRC's request, Professor Chris Busby put this question to ICRP's retiring Scientific Secretary in a public meeting in April 2009. The answer was No See it on vimeo or the transcript
An accessible account of how ICRP decided to scrap the science.
If you are seeing this page full screen (i.e. without a navigation bar on the left) you can't see how the rest of the site is organised.
This Home page link takes you to the index page, which has links to all the topics we discuss on the site [only use it if this page is full screen]