Health Canada and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission: Partners in Low-Dose-Radiation Research in Canada and Abroad
Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) and Health Canada (HC) staff at the International Dose Effect Alliance 2018 meeting in Charlotte, NC.
The year 2018 saw both the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) and Health Canada (HC) staff participate in several international workshops and conferences on the subject of low-dose-radiation research (LDRR). (See Table 1.)
Table 1: Key international workshops and conferences in 2018
|Event||Scoping meeting for global coordination of low-dose-radiation research||European Radiological Protection Research
|International Dose Effect Alliance 2018|
|Canadian Government Participants||
LDRR (< 100 mSv) is key to fulfilling parts of both HC’s (Radiation Protection Bureau and Consumer and Clinical Radiation Protection Bureau) and CNSC’s mandates, which include protecting Canadians from the health risks of exposure to ionizing radiation.
Lifetime doses below 100 mSv are especially relevant to nuclear energy workers. Low doses from nuclear facilities, which are approximately 100 to 1,000 times lower than the CNSC public dose limit (1 mSv/year), are also relevant to members of the public.
The Government of Canada continues to invest in and conduct LDRR to contribute to the body of evidence that informs the International Framework for Radiation Safety. In turn, this informs the application and incorporation of international recommendations into Canadian regulations and national guidance.
The International Framework for Radiation Safety is partly based on the linear no-threshold (LNT) model. The LNT model is a dose-response model that describes a direct and proportional relationship between radiation exposure and cancer risk—where low-dose-radiation risk is extrapolated from moderate- to high-dose data (> 100 mSv). Thus, to better inform risk assessment at low doses, LDRR seeks to provide scientific evidence to reduce the statistical uncertainties at low doses.
Interest and activity in LDRR is continuing to grow in Canada and around the world. In response, CNSC and HC are directing researchers and resources towards low-dose-research priorities. It is essential that the Government of Canada stay informed of current research activities and form stronger ties with the international radiation research community. Improving international coordination and collaboration, and thus the effectiveness of radiation research, is a goal shared by HC, CNSC, and the international community.
The advantages of collaborating on and coordinating LDRR on a national and/or international level include:
- Saving on research costs
- Making better use of existing research infrastructure
- Improving access to and leveraging external expertise
- Broadening the international profile of Canadian scientists and their research laboratories
- Demonstrating Canadian leadership to the international radiation protection community
- Focusing the research program
In September, HC, CNSC staff, and other Canadian representatives participated in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) scoping meeting for global coordination of LDRR held at the University of Milan. (See Table 1.) The meeting brought together 35 participants from 13 countries, including European radiological protection research platforms, regulatory authorities, and research organizations. Given the amount of low-dose research being conducted and continuing in the world, and its importance, those in attendance expressed interest in some level of global coordination.
Following are some of the topics discussed at the meeting:
- Ongoing and planned research
- Research collaboration and cooperation
- LDRR priorities
- Mechanisms to more effectively foster global research collaboration and cooperation
- Effects of stakeholder concerns on research priorities
The result of these discussions led to the drafting of high-level recommendations for the NEA’s Committee on Radiological Protection and Public Health (CRPPH) meeting to be held in March 2019. CRPPH is being encouraged to consider the following:
- Discussing the need for global coordination of low-dose research in an all-hazards context
- Creating a high-level group to design and carry out such global coordination
- Defining the benefits such an approach will bring to participating countries/organizations
CNSC staff attended the third European Radiological Protection Research Week (ERPW2018) in Rovinj, Croatia. (See Table 1), hosted by the Multidisciplinary European Low Dose Initiative (MELODI) and the Institute for Medical Research and Occupational Health (IMROH). This annual event showcases radiation research conducted or funded by European research platforms:
- Multidisciplinary European Low Dose Initiative (MELODI)
- European Radioecology Alliance (ERA)
- European Radiation Dosimetry (EURADOS) Group
- European Platform on Preparedness for Nuclear and Radiological Emergency Response and Recovery (NERIS)
- European Alliance for Medical Radiation Protection Research (EURAMED)
- European Joint Programme for the Integration of Radiation Protection Research (CONCERT)
At ERPW2018, CNSC staff attended the MELODI parallel sessions. Following are some of the topics discussed:
- The shape of the dose-response relationship for radiation-induced health effects
- Health effects of inhomogeneous dose distributions
- Radiation quality and internal emitters
- New findings in biological and health effects at low doses
- The role of genetic and epigenetic modifications in radiation-induced health effects
ERPW provides an opportunity to develop personal networks within the radiation research community and connect with its stakeholders and to gain access to key information. Notably, CNSC staff were interested in learning more about proposed revisions to articles in MELODI’s statutes, which were unanimously approved at its Extraordinary General Assembly. Among the revised statutes was a change that allows organizations from non-European countries to become members of MELODI. CNSC and HC staff are in discussions with MELODI about initiating membership applications for their respective organizations.
Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) and Health Canada (HC) staff attending the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Nuclear Energy Agency scoping meeting for global coordination of low-dose-radiation research in Milan, Italy.
Picturesque Rovinj, Croatia, host city for European Radiological Protection Research Week 2018.
While discussions are ongoing concerning global coordination of LDRR, similar discussions are being held in Canada about national coordination. Momentum is building to create a national framework that would include HC, CNSC, and other Canadian research organizations.
HC and CNSC have taken the lead and are drafting terms of reference for a federal LDRR program. Our shared vision and priorities for the health and environmental protection themes under the Federal Nuclear Science and Technology Work Plan position us well to form the nucleus of a LDRR program. From this nucleus, the federal government program could expand to a national initiative that draws in other Canadian organizations to enhance collaboration and coordination.
The foundation of the federal LDRR program will be independent and joint research led by HC and CNSC that addresses our core and shared priorities. The research will be defined through a roadmap that will incorporate the Adverse Outcome Pathways methodology to coordinate research and focus resources.
In December 2018, HC and CNSC presented an overview of the federal LDRR program for the first time on an international stage at the International Dose Effect Alliance (IDEA) workshop in Charlotte, NC, which was hosted by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI). (See Table 1.)
A federally led LDRR program will harmonize LDRR priorities across federal organizations and effectively leverage expertise and capacity. This will lay the foundation upon which we can build a national framework in anticipation of the international coordination and collaboration that are essential to building a successful program for Canada.
The federal LDRR program will have the following objectives:
- Focus resources to identify and address common research priorities and knowledge gaps
- Increase sharing of expertise, samples, resources, facilities, and research findings
- Build new expertise through cross-training opportunities
- Leverage funding opportunities
CNSC and HC are looking forward to 2019—a year filled with new beginnings!
1. Lane, R., et al. 2013. Radiation Exposure and Cancer Incidence (1990 to 2008) around Nuclear Power Plants in Ontario, Canada. Journal of Environmental Protection. 4(9).