President’s Message / Message du président
I was recently invited to be a lecturer at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) School of Radiation Emergency Management held for the Asia-Pacific region. This edition of the school brought together people from many different countries to learn how to become better emergency managers in the unlikely event of a nuclear or radiological emergency. This is important as many countries in the region make peaceful use of nuclear technology, and some are looking to embark on nuclear power programs in the future.
Although the people attending the IAEA school were from different areas, agencies, and technical and cultural backgrounds, it was satisfying to see the common thread that binds radiation safety professionals with respect to training to protect workers, the public, and the environment from any potentially harmful effects due to exposure to ionizing radiation. That common thread is safety, which implies a certain degree of protection.
In our field, we often talk about “protection” from radiation. However, we must also make sure, for the sake of the public and media, that we balance any perception of danger with a discussion about the many benefits of ionizing radiation. Simply put, radiation has saved, and improved, significantly more lives than it has taken, both directly and indirectly.
One obvious area of positive impact is cancer treatment. Each year, upward of 14 million new cases of cancer are diagnosed globally; radiation is conservatively estimated to cure over 3.5 million cases per year and treat another 3.5 million cases. Radiation used to diagnose medical conditions, diseases, and illnesses positively impacts billions of lives every year.
Radiation used in industry for non-destructive evaluation, process control, and material irradiation is indirectly responsible for saving countless lives each year. Devices ranging from common smoke detectors to more complex industrial radiography equipment use radiation to detect dangerous conditions and prevent failures (such as detecting flaws in pipes and aircraft components). Radiation is also used to destroy harmful microorganisms (such as sterilizing medical instruments and irradiating food).
So, while we need to be prepared to respond to any type of incident or accident involving nuclear or radiological material, it is also important to remember the great benefits we receive from the use of this technology and the number of lives saved each year because of radiation!