[ RadSafe ] ALARA

Conklin, Al (DOH) Al.Conklin at DOH.WA.GOV
Mon Jun 23 10:07:32 CDT 2008

I can tell you one very valuable use of the ALARA principle. We do a lot
of training here in Washington State of first and second responders.
Included in that training are a series of exercises we run with
radioactive materials, simulating detonated and undetonated dirty bombs
to show the responders how to approach a scene ,collect evidence, do
surveys, identify isotopes, etc. We use two cesium-137 calibrators, a
variety of mixed calibration sources, occasionally some natural sources,
and Tc-99m, diluted in a gallon of water and sprayed on debris to
represent real contamination. The training is very popular among the
responders, but not so much among our political non-technical upper
management. In fact, most political entities wouldn't allow this type of
realism. The reason we can continue to do it, is because we are very
careful about keeping our doses ALARA. We have RSOs who keep an eye on
everyone and ask them to move if they stand in a radiation field too
long. We send in electronic dosimetry if they don't have their own, and
we record their doses. More often than not, there are no measurable
doses or they are very very small. We keep that as evidence that we can
do the training safely, and we are allowed to continue. We do the work
in an isolated bomb pit that we can keep secure until the Tc-99m decays.
We have a security company guard the only entrance.

So, is ALARA stupid? From a purely dose perspective (saving a few
millirem) probably. But in a political atmosphere, it's not stupid at
all. Our trainees get a good and valuable experience, and practicing
ALARA doesn't hurt it at all. But, it does keep us in business providing
realism that the responders cannot get other places. 

-----Original Message-----
From: radsafe-bounces at radlab.nl [mailto:radsafe-bounces at radlab.nl] On
Behalf Of garyi at trinityphysics.com
Sent: Friday, June 20, 2008 7:59 AM
To: radsafe at radlab.nl
Subject: [ RadSafe ] ALARA

ALARA is just stupid.  No doubt, people believe they are fulfulling
ALARA, but does anyone really do it?  Or do they just reach a point
where they think, consciously or not, "Thats low enough" and stop trying
to reduce doses?

Consider bone densitometers.  The operater sits unshielded at a computer
about 1 to 2 meters from the scanner.  Is that ALARA?  Yes, the dose is
very low, but ALARA does not care how low it is.  It does not matter.
So if it is reasonable to shield a radiographic room or fluoro room, why
is it not reasonable to shield a DEXA unit the same way, with about
lead and a shielded control barrier?  If ALARA is applied consistently,
then perhaps all medical imaging rooms should have 1/8" lead on all
barriers, including floor and ceiling.

This is the bottom line.  Do we get anything from ALARA that we could
not have just by writing clear regs?  I'm sitting here trying to think
of anything at all, but I can't.  I think its better to just tell people
what the limits are and what you expect them to do to comply with those

Somebody might say that ALARA results in lower doses to the population.
That's probably true, but you could have that just by writing the dose
limits lower in the regs.  And this I think shows why we have ALARA -
because nobody in authority has the guts to say "This is safe enough.
This dose level is safe enough."  There are too many nuts who would
froth at the mouth upon hearing those words applied to radiation.  

If transportation risk was made ALARA, what would that look like?  I
drive a lot in my business. That puts myself and anybody I pass on the
road at risk.  People in houses along my route are at risk, and I bet
the risk is significantly higher than the risk to someone exposed to 0.1
cSv.  How about that vacation you are planning?  You mean you are free,
legally, to put all those innocent people at risk?  Without even warning
them?  OMYGOSH!

-Gary Isenhower
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