[ RadSafe ] ALARA

Raymond A Hoover ray2hoover at yahoo.com
Mon Jun 23 14:48:20 CDT 2008

Let me stick my $0.02 in here to remind everyone that ALARA is a management tool that should include a good cost benefit analysis.   I suspect that frequently we go for lowest possible dose because it doesn't involve cost benefit analysis, but we do that out of laziness.  
  Of course now I have probably raised the old argument of what is the value of $/rem
garyi at trinityphysics.com wrote:

Yes, Alara is the political reality that we now live with. Yet your one valuable use of Alara . . . 
is that it meets Alara.

Or else it is that it keeps politicians happy . . . since we have told them there is no safe dose.

Both of these are just the dog biting his own tail and wondering why it hurts back there.

Most debates will become emotional, and emotions often subvert reason without reason ever 
knowing that it has been subverted.

I have been called a hypocrite and invited to leave the profession. I suppose that if I 
preached Alara as a wise and correct "dose reduction tool", then I would in fact be a 
hypocrite, since I do not believe it to be either wise or correct. However, I always tell people 
that Alara is a regulatory requirement which they can not ignore. And I tell them I think it is 
stupid. There are hypocrites in every field, but they are generally not the people who are 
speaking up for changes that they sincerely believe to be beneficial. Therefore, the use of 
the H word is either uncalled for or just backwards.

Alara is stupid. Why? Because it is inconsistent, vague, unnecessary, and subject at every 
level to the whim and disposition of an individual. Ultimately its enforcement depends on a 
regulator, who may be replaced at any time by some person from California, God help us. I 
have heard that there are sane and rational people in California, but they never seem to 
make it to politics or television.

I'll repeat myself: Do we get anything from ALARA that we could 
not have just by writing clear regs?

-Gary Isenhower

On 23 Jun 2008 at 8:47, Conklin, Al (DOH) wrote:

Subject: RE: [ RadSafe ] ALARA
Date sent: Mon, 23 Jun 2008 08:47:07 -0700
From: "Conklin, Al (DOH)" 

Keeping the doses ALARA so the politicians don't have a coronary is the valuable use of the 
principle. It's not for health issues. It's for politics; but most of us live in a political world. 

From: garyi at trinityphysics.com [mailto:garyi at trinityphysics.com]
Sent: Monday, June 23, 2008 8:45 AM
To: radsafe at radlab.nl; Conklin, Al (DOH)
Subject: RE: [ RadSafe ] ALARA
Hi Al, 

Please, could you clarify for me, what was the one valuable use of ALARA? 

In reading your post it sounds like you say that keeping your doses low is the valuable part. 

Pls let me know if I have misunderstood you. 


On 23 Jun 2008 at 8:07, Conklin, Al (DOH) wrote: 

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 1/16" 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 limits. 

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 

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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