The National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements (NCRP) strives to address national needs in radiation protection. It has been another exciting year with the resurgence of committees overflowing with new scientific ideas. A few highlights:
- Council Committee 1 (CC 1), Radiation Protection Guidance for the United States, got off to a rapid start in providing a new look at radiation protection guidance for the United States. NCRP Report No. 116 (1993) is being updated with financial support from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) (Co-Chairs: John D. Boice, Jr. and Kenneth R. Kase).
- Council Committee 2 (CC 2), Meeting the Needs of the Nation for Radiation Protection, continues and expands upon our Where are the Radiation Professionals? (WARP) initiative. This is arguably the most important activity NCRP has embarked upon. Statement No. 12 was published (Chair: Richard E. Toohey; Co-Chairs: John D. Boice, Jr. and Kathryn H. Pryor).
- Commentary No. 24, Health Effects of Low Doses of Radiation: Perspectives on Integrating Radiation Biology and Epidemiology (2015) was published (Co-Chairs: Sally Amundson and Jonine Bernstein).
- Commentary No. 25, Potential for Central Nervous System Effects from Radiation Exposure During Space Activities Phase I: Overview (2016) was published (Co-Chairs: Leslie A. Braby and Richard S. Nowakowski).
- The president wrote 12 columns on “all things radiation” for the Health Physics News, made 16 presentations to national, international, scientific and university audiences, and had nine publications in the scientific literature.
- Funds to support NCRP scientific committees (SC) have been provided by several agencies including the NRC (CC 1, SC 1-23, SC 1-25), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) (SC 1-24), the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) (SC 3-1), the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) (SC 1-22, SC 6-9), the Food and Drug Administration (SC 4-5), and the Centers for Disease Control and Protection (SC 1-20, SC 2-6, SC 4-5, SC 4-7, SC 6-9).
- The Million Person Study of Low Dose Radiation Health Effects is recognized around the world as the major investigation to fill gaps in understanding the health effects of exposures received gradually over time. Support has been received from many agencies [U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), DOE, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), NASA, the National Cancer Institute (NCI), NRC] but has been substantially reduced and eliminated in some cases. Thus there is a serious need to secure adequate funding for completion before this window of opportunity closes.
- A joint Radiation Research Society (RRS)/NCRP symposium was held at the 2015 RRS Annual Meeting in Ft. Lauderdale featuring SC 1-23 work.
- A workshop was held at the 2016 mid-year meeting of the Health Physics Society (HPS) in Austin, Texas on “Radiation Protection for Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORM) and Technologically Enhanced NORM (TENORM) from Oil and Gas Recovery.”
A refresher course was conducted at the 2015 Annual Meeting of the Radiological Society of North America on “Biodosimetry Issues Following a Major Radiological Incident.”
- SC 1-23 is providing a fresh look on the radiation protection issues for lens of the eye (Co-Chairs: Eleanor A. Blakeley and Lawrence T. Dauer). A draft Commentary has been prepared.
- SC 1-24 has continued to look at radiation exposures in space and the potential for effects on the central nervous system. A new committee for Phase 2 was created and initial meetings held in Galveston (Co-Chairs: Leslie A. Braby and Jacob Raber). Lawrence W. Townsend is the new staff consultant.
- SC 3-1 has been progressing at full speed in cooperation with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and other state and federal agencies to address the complex issues of dosimetry for emergency responders in the event of an improvised nuclear device being detonated (Co-Chairs: Stephen V. Musolino and Adela Salame-Alfie). James Smith is the new staff consultant.
- SC 6-9 continues to provide comprehensive assessment of the complex radiation dosimetry issues for the Million Worker and Veterans Study (Chair: Andre Bouville; Co-Chair: Richard E. Toohey). A comprehensive overview was published in the Health Physics journal (2015). A comprehensive report is being prepared for Council review.
- SC 1-20 has recently completed a draft report on Bioeffectiveness of Low Energy Radiation (Chair: Steve L. Simon) that is ready for Council review.
- SC 2-6 has recently completed a draft report on radiation protection issues in nanotechnology that is currently out for Council review (Chair: Mark D. Hoover; Co-Chair: David S. Myers).
- SC 2-7 has recently completed a draft commentary on radiation protection issues and sealed radiation sources (Chair: Kathryn H. Pryor).
- SC 4-5 has recently completed a draft Report on protection in dentistry associated with cone beam computed tomography (CT) (Co-Chairs: Mel L. Kantor and Alan G. Lurie).
- SC 4-7 continues its work on communicating radiation risks and institution review board guidance (Chair: Julie E.K. Timins).
- SC 4-8 continues its work on patient dose and CT (Chair: Munnudeep K.S. Kalra).
SC 5-2 was approved to address Radiation Protection for Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORM) and Technologically Enhanced NORM (TENORM) from Oil and Gas Recovery (Chair: William E. Kennedy, Jr.).
- SC 1‐25 on Recent Epidemiologic Studies and Implications for the Linear Nonthreshold Model was formed (Chair: Roy E. Shore; Co-Chair: Lawrence T. Dauer) and plans to provide guidance to CC 1 by the first quarter of 2017.
- A Biodosimetry Workshop at the Radiological Society of North America annual meeting in 2015 was sponsored by NCRP and a second will be held in 2016.
The President has met and discussed opportunities for partnership with personnel at the American College of Radiology (ACR), Harvard University, HPS, NASA, U.S. Naval Reactors, NRC, RRS, and others. NCRP strives to be relevant and attuned to the needs of the nation across many disciplines.
Yet, despite the obvious need for radiation guidance in the United States, we are being overwhelmed by two tidal waves of societal change: there continues to be a dwindling number of radiation professionals available to meet the needs of the nation, and the sources of funding for radiation protection activities continue in a downward spiral. Our WARP initiative addresses these tsunami trends of reality, but solutions must include increased governmental recognition and support.
NCRP continues to encourage the passing of H.R. 35, the Bill on Low-Dose Radiation Research which seeks to develop a strategy for health research on low-dose radiation to meet national needs. If passed by the Senate and signed by the President, the Bill would require that:
- scientific challenges to understanding low-dose effects be identified;
- current status of research be assessed;
- scientific goals for future research be formulated;
- long-term strategy be recommended; and
- research agenda be prioritized to overcome the challenges and meet the goals.
I applaud our legislative leaders for recognizing a serious gap in the nation’s infrastructure necessary to deal with the burgeoning exposure of the population to medical radiation, the potential burden of regulatory actions if overly conservative, as well as the consequences of nuclear terrorism and major nuclear reactor accidents.
SC 1-21 was remarkably prescient and has published a commentary on the health effects of low doses of radiation: integrating radiation biology and epidemiology. These goals are similar to those articulated in H.R. 35. Critical research needs for evaluating low-dose radiation health effects are the focus to bridging the gap between molecules and the entire human being. Biologically-based models coupled with high-quality, large-scale epidemiologic data such as those coming from the Million Person Study are one way forward. This public awareness about gaps in radiation knowledge further accentuates the urgency for developing and strengthening major programs in the United States to train, engage and retain radiation protection professionals necessary to meet the needs of our nation.
The issues of radiation protection in the 21st century have been sculptured by recent events, by the increasing use of radiation in medicine, and by the horrific possibility of a nuclear terrorist act. The March 11, 2011 Fukushima nuclear reactor accident and meltdown was a major radiation disaster which brought into vivid focus the need for radiation guidance and improved ways to communicate with the press, members of the public, and equally important the medical community and scientists. The 2007 International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) made recommendations that have generated interest around the world and coincide with U.S. initiatives to update and revise our protection regulations. NCRP is addressing the needs for regulatory change and thoughtful guidance by creating CC 1 which deals directly with updating NCRP Report No.116 entitled Limitation of Exposure to Ionizing Radiation. Further, we are about to complete a commentary on the issues involving lens of the eye dose (SC 1-23), a topic which caused and continues to cause some controversy after the ICRP recommendations were made.
The remarkable increase in public exposure to medical radiological imaging (over 85 million CT exams per year!) heightens the need for continued protection guidance in this important medical advance and the beneficial uses of ionizing radiation. The unsettling nature of world affairs raises the possibility that a terrorist event with nuclear devices may occur on U.S. soil. The 2014 NCRP Annual Meeting entitled, “NCRP: Achievements of the Past 50 Years and Addressing the Needs of the Future” (published in 2015) addressed many of these issues involving the future of radiation protection in the United States.
Our financial situation, in my view, has decreased from a B to a B-: okay (we can keep the lights on) but long-term funding possibilities remain highly uncertain. In addition to grants and contracts, we receive interagency support for research efforts for the Million Person Study, and we are reaching out to government agencies to support the initiatives outlined above as well as professional societies, universities, industry, donors, and benefactors. We are grateful for our corporate sponsors and many professional contributors but we need more resources to increase our ability to serve the nation at this critical time. We will continue to develop innovative approaches for resource gathering and have reestablished our resource committee (Chair: James A. Brink) under the auspices of our finance committee. Please send us your ideas for opportunities to support NCRP, and your interest in helping.
To secure the long-term stability of NCRP, creating a foundation with endowed funding would go a long way to address basic salary needs, support for interns and training, and expansion of the activities related to the ever increasing needs of the nation for radiation protection.
Small endeavors to increase the financial stability of NCRP include the AmazonSmile® initiative where, at no cost to the individual, all purchases made on Amazon will provide a small percentage back to NCRP. Other opportunities suggested were to add NCRP as a small percentage beneficiary on IRAs, 401(k)s, and life insurance policies as already done by a number of Council members. Council members also make direct charitable contributions to NCRP and the donations in memory of William M. Beckner and William F. Morgan this past year were very much appreciated. As an example, I continue to make charitable contributions to NCRP to assist with ongoing programs. The funds can be committed to a specific topic or uncommitted and then applied to defray the costs of the annual meeting and underfunded program areas.
Our 2014 Annual Meeting (published in 2015) showcased NCRP and the past 50 y of accomplishments since being chartered by Congress in 1964 and our plans, goals and dreams for the future. The Annual Meeting enhanced many of the innovations from previous meetings, including written questions and published answers and a “rapid” publication of the proceedings in Health Physics.
Our 2015 Annual Meeting (published in 2016) was on “Changing Regulations and Radiation Guidance: What Does the Future Hold?” As NCRP begins its second half century since our Congressional Charter in 1964, our program of activities encompasses the future landscape of radiation protection regulation and guidance in the United States. The wide range of uses for radiation and radioactive materials pose challenges and opportunities that must be addressed in a consistent and coherent way. The United States stands at a junction where decisions are needed in many areas, recommendations and scientific information are being updated, and serious examinations are being made of the basis and rationale for our system of protection. Within NCRP, work is underway in CC 1 to update existing NCRP recommendations, last published in 1993.
Our 2016 Annual Meeting is on “Meeting the Needs of the Nation for Radiation Protection.” As above, this meeting will be a continuation of our WARP initiative (Statement No. 12) and CC 2 activities. New enhancements include for the first time the Joint Armed Forces Honor Guard from the Military District of Washington D.C. and the singing of our National Anthem by Kimberly Gaskins of NRC. The 2016 Annual Meeting features the 40th Lauriston S. Taylor Lecture by John W. Poston, Jr. who will discuss radiation protection and regulatory science; the 13th Annual Warren F. Sinclair address presented by Dr. Richard E. Toohey, who will review the WARP-related activities of NCRP; and the 2016 Members’ Dinner Speaker, Randall N. Hyer, whose talk is entitled “Breaking Bad News in the High-Concern, Low Trust Setting – How to Get your Story Heard.”
A column of NCRP and other radiation professional activities (“The Boice Report”) has completed its fourth year of monthly publications in Health Physics News. Covered are recent events in radiation protection, measurements, science, and health throughout the world. There have now been 43 columns published through December 2015. A compilation publication is being considered once 50 columns have been published. The President’s travel schedule and presentation schedule in 2015 continued to be substantial and includes presentations at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the U.S. Submarine Veterans Capitol Base, the Division of Environmental Hazards and Health Effects Director’s Science Seminar, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory Environmental Science Division seminar series, the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, the NCI Radiation Epidemiology and Dosimetry Course, the Annual Meeting of the American College of Radiology, the Interagency Steering Committee on Radiation Standards, the American Nuclear Society 60th Annual Meeting President’s Special Session, the 60th Annual Meeting of the Health Physics Society, the 61st Annual Meeting of the Radiation Research Society, the Korean Association for Radiation Protection/ICRP Session, the Louisiana State University School of Public Health (John A. Rock Visiting Scholar Lecture), and Colorado State University.
The 2015 calendar year was productive with the initiation of many scientific committees outlined above and the publication of NCRP commentaries, reports, proceedings, statements, and scientific articles. These include:
- NCRP Commentary No. 24, Health Effects of Low Doses of Radiation: Perspectives on Integrating Radiation Biology and Epidemiology (2015) was published.
- Publishing a summary of completed NCRP reports and commentaries in the scientific literature is enthusiastically encouraged as a way to reach more audiences. A preview of Commentary No. 24 was written by R. Julian Preston [“Integrating basic radiobiological science and epidemiological studies: Why and how,” Health Phys. 108(2), 125–130 (2015)].
- NCRP Commentary No. 25, Potential for Central Nervous System Effects from Radiation Exposure During Space Activities Phase I: Overview (2016) was published.
- The Proceedings of the 50th Annual Meeting in 2014 on “NCRP: Achievements of the Past 50 Years and Addressing the Needs of the Future” (Chair: Kenneth R. Kase; Co-Chairs: John D. Boice, Jr. and Jerrold T. Bushberg) was published in February 2015. We continue to strive for a rapid publication to make our scientific deliberations and recommendations more timely and accessible. The Proceedings included the 38th Lauriston S. Taylor Lecture on Radiation Protection and Measurements by Fred A. Mettler, Jr. “On the Shoulders of Giants: Radiation Protection Over 50 Years” and the 11th Annual Warren K. Sinclair Keynote Address by Jerrold T. Bushberg on “Science, Radiation Protection, and the NCRP: Building on the Past, Looking to the Future. A wonderful summary by Richard E. Toohey with accompanying photographs by Genevieve S. Roessler were published just a few weeks after the Annual Meeting in the April 2014 issue of Health Physics News!
- The Proceedings of the 51st Annual Meeting in 2015 on “Changing Regulations and Radiation Guidance: What Does the Future Hold?” (Chairs: Donald A. Cool, Ruth E. McBurney, and Kathryn H. Pryor) was published in February 2016. The Proceedings included the 39th Lauriston S. Taylor Lecture on Radiation Protection and Measurements by Keith F. Eckerman on “Dosimetry of Internal Emitters: Contributions of Radiation Protection Bodies and Radiological Events” and the 12th Annual Warren K. Sinclair Keynote Address by Kenneth R. Kase on “Influence of NCRP on Radiation Protection in the United States: Guidance and Regulation.” The first Thomas S. Tenforde Topical Lecture was by Jacques Lochard on “Ethics and Radiation Protection” [Health Phys. 110(2), (2016)]. Another innovation was the first publication of the Members’ Dinner talk: former NRC Chairman Allison Macfarlane’s presentation and publication was on “Radiation and Regulation in a Post-Fukushima World” [Health Phys. 110(2), 118–122 (2016)]. An informative summary by Richard E. Toohey with accompanying photographs by Casper Sun were published in the May 2015 issue of Health Physics News!
- Statement No. 12, Where are the Radiation Professionals (WARP)? was published in 2015. It succinctly summarizes initiatives to address the national crisis of the dwindling number of radiation professionals, judged to be insufficient to meet the needs of our nation. Unmet needs are not only in emergency response, but also in regulation, medicine, occupation, and environment (i.e., all aspects of radiation exposure to the population). CC 2 will continue this initiative. The 2016 Annual Meeting will cover the topic in its entirety.
Active committees are preparing the reports and commentaries highlighted at the beginning of the President’s Message. In addition, NCRP has continued to move forward to address the evolving and challenging issues of radiation protection facing our nation. These include:
- To draw younger professions into the protection arena, we continue our partnership with RRS for travel support for young scientists to attend the annual meeting. Three were able to attend in 2015 and three are planned for 2016.
- We partner with HPS to improve the conduct of our mission to enhance radiation protection in the United States. We were an instrumental part of the 2016 mid-year meeting on TENORM in Austin, Texas and we plan a similar presence at the 2017 mid-year meeting in Bethesda, Maryland on “Radiation Protection and Nuclear Power.”
- The CC 1 very early draft report on Radiation Protection Guidance for the United States is to begin general review this April 2016 with Program Area Committees (PACs) and ICRP. During the next year presentations are planned at the International Radiation Protection Association meeting in Cape Town, South Africa; the HPS meeting in Spokane, Washington; the RRS meeting in Hawaii; the Radiation Protection Week (Melodi, European Radiation Dosimetry Group) in Oxford, United Kingdom; and others. We expect significant changes and improvements as we converge on a document that will be useful for the United States: practical, implementable, and easy to understand. It will strive to provide adequate protection against the adverse consequences of radiation without unduly limiting the beneficial uses. A tall order! But with the help of the Council and over a year to improve, we should be successful.
- We partner with agencies with substantial interests and programs involving radiation and protection. These include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, DHS, DOD, DOE, EPA, NASA, National Nuclear Security Administration, U.S. Navy, NRC, and others. We are the Council for the nation and strive to meet the needs of our country in all facets of radiation protection.
- We are improving the PAC structure in having, for the third time, full PAC meetings just before the annual meeting, and then a joint session of all PACs afterwards to present current activities and future plans and visions. This rewarding experience, begun in 2014, has become a mainstay of the annual meeting. A new innovation for 2015 was the individual publication of PAC activities and vision by their chairmen.
- Issues surrounding radiofrequencies could be considered in the future such as cell phone exposures and other uses of nonionizing radiation. The NCRP Advisory Panel on Nonionizing Radiation was reconstituted in 2015.
- We need to become more attuned to the modern age of social media with Twitter®, Facebook®, YouTube®, Instagram®, and other approaches to outreach.
- NCRP negotiated with the American Association of Physicists in Medicine (AAPM) to make PDFs of NCRP publications available to their members. It is anticipated that this will provide wider distribution of NCRP recommendations as well as secure funding for a portion of our publication revenue. The program will be funded by the AAPM for a period of 5 y with an option to renew.
- NCRP worked with a professional website developer to enhance our online presence. The new site was up and running in 2015.
- NCRP continues to participate in meetings or conferences of HPS, ICRP, the NRC Regulatory Information Conference, RRS, the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR), and more. These venues increase NCRP visibility and impact.
- Approaches to improve radiation risk communication, perception and outreach. The President met with personnel at Consumer Reports along with ACR members to discuss effective communications of CT risks and benefits. He provides interviews with the New York Times and other media on issues ranging from cellular telephones to Fukushima.
- Expanding our efforts in medicine, such as quality management of radiological medical imaging and electronic tracking patient exposures. Updating the medical component of NCRP Report No. 160 is being considered.
- The President is on the 2024 IRPA North American Bid Task Force trying to secure the International Conference in Orlando. The topic proposed is on “Harmonization in Radiation Protection Issues.” The President will be honored at the 2016 IRPA Conference in Cape Town, South Africa by receiving the Sievert Award. Lauriston S. Taylor was the only other American to receive this award since its offering 50 y ago.
- The President remains on the ICRP Main Commission (first elected in 1997) and is now the alternate U.S. Representative to UNSCEAR (first appointed on the delegation by the State Department in 1993).
NCRP reports, activities, members, programs and more can be found on the website http://NCRPonline.org. The NCRP program of activities made possible by the partnership and financial support from many government agencies including CDC, DHS, DOD, DOE, EPA, NASA, NCI, and NRC. Gifts from our corporate sponsors and many collaborating organizations remain critical to our continued success and are gratefully acknowledged.
It is with great sadness that I recognize the passing of four NCRP Council members and wonderful individuals, and also personal friends who died in 2015:
- William J. Bair (July 14, 1924 – May 19, 2015) was a Council and Distinguished Emeritus member since 1974;
- William M. Beckner (November 7, 1932 – August 12, 2015) was the second Executive Director of the NCRP serving 1982 through 2002;
- Gerald D. Dodd, Jr. (November 18, 1922 – September 25, 2015) was a Council and Distinguished Emeritus member since 1979; and
- William F. Morgan (December 23, 1952 – November 13, 2015) who was a Council member since 2002.
Finally, NCRP remains a dynamic and influential organization only because of the generous contributions of time and knowledge contributed by Council members, the senior vice president, scientific vice presidents, committee members, Board of Directors, consultants, and the NCRP staff! These continue to be exciting times, challenging times, changing time and opportunities abound. We are only limited by our imaginations (and shrinking budgets!). We balance two issues in management articulated by Admiral Rickover – the need to embrace innovation without losing sight or capitulating to the process (the routine hard work) that got NCRP where we are today and keeps us on an even keel. Our goal remains to be efficient, effective and productive, with a broad view for the future with ideas and visions to address the needs of the nation as we meet together the challenges of radiation protection for the 21st century! Your help, guidance and financial support are essential for the future of NCRP.
John D. Boice, Jr.