Cover Image
close this book8th Coordination Meeting of World Health Organization Collaborating Centres in Radiation Emergency Medical Preparedness and Assistance Network, REMPAN (WHO - OMS, 2002, 145 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the document1. Programme of the 8th WHO/REMPAN Meeting
View the document2. Summary - Souchkevitch, G.N.
View the document3. National Radiological Protection Board - History, Structure, Functions of Radiation Protection at National and International Levels - Clarke, R.H.
View the document4. Second Henri Jammet Memorial Lecture. Radiation Accidents - an Overview and Feedback, 1950 - 2000 - NĂ©not, J-C.
View the document5. Aims of the 8th Rempan Meeting and Global Strategy - Repacholi, M.
Open this folder and view contents6. Reports of REMPAN Collaborating Centres and Liaison Institutions
View the document7. REMPAN: Overview Since the 7th Meeting - Souchkevitch, G.N.
Open this folder and view contents8. Agency Programmes
Open this folder and view contents9. Case Studies in Recent Radiation Accidents
Open this folder and view contents10. Public Health Aspects of Radiation Accidents
Open this folder and view contents11. REMPAN Database
View the document12. Future of REMPAN Session
View the documentQuality practice opportunities
View the documentHow to recognize and initially respond to an accidental radiation injury

3. National Radiological Protection Board - History, Structure, Functions of Radiation Protection at National and International Levels - Clarke, R.H.

Clarke, R.H.
National Radiological Protection Board
Chilton, Didcot, Oxon OX11 0RQ, UK


The National Radiological Protection Board was established by the Radiological Protection Act 1970. In this paper, its position and programme of work in radiological protection are described. Incomes and expenditures are summarised, and recent major achievements and future priorities are identified.


NRPB was created by the Radiological Protection Act 1970. The purpose of the legislation was "to achieve in the proposed new Statutory Board and its staff a single national point of authoritative reference and a body which can provide the necessary technical services, both to Government Departments and to others" [Hansard, House of Lords 13 Nov, 1968].

The functions give to the new Board were

By means of research and otherwise, to advance the acquisition of knowledge about the protection of mankind from radiation hazards

To provide information and advice to persons (including government departments) with responsibilities in the United Kingdom in relation to the protection from radiation hazards either of the community as a whole or of particular sections of the community.

The Board also has the power to provide technical services to persons concerned with radiation hazards and to make charges for such services and for providing information and advice.

It is clear from the functions that the Board is an advisory rather than a regulatory body. The regulatory functions concerning ionising radiation generally remain within the Departments having overall responsibility for any area. Thus, regulations concerning ionising radiation at work are with the Health and Safety Executive and those concerning environmental protection from ionising radiation are in the Department of the Environment, transportation in the Department of Transport, and so on. The Board gives formal advice to all of these Departments. The sponsoring Department for NRPB is the Department of Health, and Health Ministers appoint the Chairman and Members of the Board, of whom there may be not less than seven and not more than twelve. The Board appoints its staff and is responsible for the programme of work with the Chairman and Director being accountable for the Secretary of State for Health.

The strategic aims of NRPB in protecting people from radiation hazards can be summarised as:

· To be an informed and reliable resource for government
· To maintain expertise and monitoring capability for accident response
· To develop advice on standards for protection
· To conduct relevant research to support the advice
· To provide technical advice to users of radiation
· To train professionals in protection, and
· To inform and communicate with the public

This paper describes the way in which these aims are addressed by the Board in setting out its structure and programmes of scientific and technical work.


The Board had an average staff of 314 for the financial year 1998/99, of whom 178 were scientific, 41 technical and 45 administrative tenured posts and 50 fixed-term appointments, principally scientific. The administration includes all financial and personnel matters, since the Board makes all its own contracts and provides its own building and engineering services. In the financial year 1998/99 the Board budget was approximately £14M of which some £6.5M or about 45 % was provided by the government grant. The remaining 55 % were found by selling advice, research and services.

In the early 1970s, when the Board was first formed, 95 % of the income was from the grant. By the early 1980s, the percentage of expenditure represented by the grant was about 70 % and the level of the grant remained fairly constant in real terms until the mid-1990s. But the Board expanded its contract income and staff so that the government grants became less then 50%. In the last 5 years the grant has been progressively reduced and there has been some fall-off in other income. The current sources of non-grant income are shown in Table 1.


The two Areas of Personal Monitoring Services (PMS) and Technical Services to Industry in Table 1 each constitute about 15 % of the Board's total annual expenditure, and the costs are fully recoverable so that they contribute £4M out of the £7.5M earned last year by the Board. To provide geographical coverage for services, the Board has Centres in Glasgow and Leeds as well as in the Board's Headquarters at Chilton (Oxford). PMS provides TLD and film external monitoring services involving 450,000 dosimeters to 5000 customers a year. The Board's customers are the smaller companies with requirements to monitor small numbers of people. The nuclear and defence industries provide their own dosimetry services, as do the National Health Service hospitals.

Similarly, the Board acts as a Radiation Protection Adviser to some 1100 companies, which are not sufficiently large to warrant employing their own specialist staffs. The nuclear and defence industries as well as the NHS hospitals again have their own staffs. The Board also undertakes instrument testing; radiochemical analyses of environmental and other samples, and provides a postal dental monitoring service to which approximately two-thirds of all dentists in the UK subscribe. An increasing demand is being seen for advice on protection against non-ionising radiation, and this is expected to be a growth area in the future.

These technical services are seen as a vital element in the overall Board programme and ensure that staff have practical knowledge of protection issues in industry so that formal advice is given in the light of that experience.


The remaining 70 % of expenditure are on research, assessments, training, and the giving or development of advice that is used nationally and internationally. In Table 2, under the broad headings of the overall programme, are the details of expenditure. Significant non-grant financial income is for work on risks of radiation and for public exposures from the nuclear industry. Most of the work on monitoring domestic radon exposures is funded under contract from the Department of the Environment, Transport and Regions, but the Board subcontracts much of this work while ensuring quality control; this to some extent, avoids the Board having to deal with variations in demand.

The financial support for research amounts to something towards £6.5M a year.



Ionising Radiation

There are a number of important research objectives for the medium term. The main focus of attention in epidemiological studies has been the second analysis of the National Registry for Radiation Workers published in early 1999. The linkage study between it, the National Survey of Childhood Tumours, and the Oxford Survey of Childhood Cancers (in which childhood cancers among the offspring of radiation workers are being examined) was published at the end of 1997.

Fundamental studies on the effects of ionising radiation remain a priority but with increasing emphasis on the use of molecular techniques for examining the influence of low doses and radiation quality. With the development of the fluorescence in situ hybridisation (FISH) technique, more attention will be given to the quantification of radiation doses from stable chromosome aberrations in circulating lymphocytes. FISH has the potential advantage over unstable aberrations - dicentrics and rings - that doses received many years previously can be estimated. An important aspect of the cytogenetic programme is the increasing significance of molecular studies intended particularly to clarify the role of radiation in the induction of leukaemia and cancer of the gastrointestinal tract.

Emphasis in experimental radiobiology will continue to be placed on the identification of target cells in sensitive tissues and the development of appropriate methods for determining doses from incorporated radionuclides, particularly for the embryo, fetus, and young child. With regard to internal dosimetry, effort will be devoted to the application of the new ICRP models of the respiratory tract and of radionuclide biokinetics.

Non-ionising Radiation

Experimental studies of magnetic flux densities commonly encountered. Work will continue on the use of personal dosimeters for assessing occupational exposure to electromagnetic fields. Support has been given to the assessment of exposures to electromagnetic fields for cases and controls in the National Study of Childhood Cancers being made by the United Kingdom Co-ordinating Committee on Cancer Research. The first part of the analysis of this study was published towards the end of 1999. Medical imaging data are being adopted to develop realistic phantoms for use in computational dosimetry of ionising as well as non-ionising radiation.

Extramural research

The Board has in existence some 20 contracts with universities and medical units for research into ionising and non-ionising radiation. The annual spend is around £0.2M and includes sponsorship of an NRPB lectureship in radiation protection at the University of Surrey. The usual model is to support a PhD student working on a topic in which the Board has an interest but has yet to commence a programme.


It is intended that the Board should be able to provide the Department of Health (DoH) and other government departments with authoritative advice on the full spectrum of occupational and public health issues concerning both ionising and non-ionising radiation. To help achieve this, the Board has established an Advisory Committee on Non-ionising Radiation (AGNIR), and an Advisory Group on Ionising Radiation (AGIR).

Other medium-term objectives under this heading include the development of supplementary guidance on the application of the ICRP concepts of constraints and potential exposures for occupational, public, and medical circumstances. This includes the development of screening levels for activity in environmental materials and Generalised Derived Limits and Constraints. Work has been completed on developing criteria for the use of land contaminated with low levels of activity as a result, for example, of past practices of accidents. An uncertainty analysis on codes for assessing accident consequences is to be completed.

Two initiatives on the assessment of doses to patients should be mentioned. It is over ten years since estimates were last made of the frequency of the different types of x-ray examination in the UK. With new imaging techniques such as digital radiology, computed tomography (CT), and magnetic resonance imaging, there will have been significant changes in the pattern of use. A new national x-ray frequency survey has been initiated. Studies of the effects of age at exposure on lifetime radiation detriment have demonstrated that the health detriment per unit effective dose for paediatric patients is about twice the value for the general population. An evaluation of doses in paediatric radiology is consequently being undertaken.

Following the publication of revised guidelines for the protection of persons against non-ionising electromagnetic fields and radiation; attention is now being given to the practical application of this advice in various circumstances of exposure. Advice on optical radiation will increase awareness of the sources of ultraviolet radiation (UVR) and of the important factors for limiting exposure; data on solar UVR measurements are published routinely. A review of the effects of UVR on human health was published by AGNIR I 1995 and a report is now being prepared to update advice on the possible health effects of electromagnetic fields, in particular, cancer.


The Board regards the provision of training courses as an important aspect of its obligation to improve protection standards. Training of persons at all levels is undertaken, from 1 day awareness courses for those only incidentally involved in the uses of radiation, to modularised courses for professional development. There is also an increasing tendency for employers to contract the Board to provide customised courses on their premises to enable a larger number of employees to be trained. In total about 1600 people a year pass through NRPB training courses. The opening of the new Training Centre at Chilton has allowed the development of a wider range of courses and the opportunity has taken to equip it as an emergency response centre.


Experts are provided by NRPB in the committee structures that develop European legislation, which is binding in Member States, and in those that manage research. As well as providing experts for these various advisory groups to the Commission of the European Communities, the Board receives CEC monies in support of research projects. Generally, the support is partial, typically 40 %, so national funding must also support those projects. Examples are in the areas of radiation risks or biokinetics of radionuclides (see Table 2); the total income to the Board is about £1 M a year. Most of these projects are multinational which is of benefit, since there are few institutes in any one country with expertise in all areas. Sharing scarce resources across Europe more efficiently carries out the work, and the danger of isolation and introspective development of policies is lessened.

In addition, the Board has held an Association Agreement with the Commission under which four major projects are co-ordinated involving some 25 laboratories across Europe. Contracts are made by NRPB on behalf of the Commission. The total of the work in the Association Agreement is about £9 M ECU.

A fairly new venture is the commercial provision by the Board of software packages for PCs. A number of such packages have been released, and one has been developed with our German colleagues as an accident consequence methodology for the Commission of the European Communities.


The Board must explain its work to other radiological professionals, special interest groups and the general public. Members of staff are encouraged to publish in the open literature, and in addition, there are NRPB publications of several types for particular purposes.

Documents of the NRPB. This is the prime publication of the Board. The series is used to promulgate formal Board advice on various topics with supporting information and guidance as necessary.

Reports and Memorandum Both are important means of presenting the results of Board work, the first having to do mainly with research and the second usually with technical studies.

At-a-Glance series. The title conveys the nature of these publications - broadsheets to explain various aspects of a topic in radiation protection mainly using illustrations and captions and avoiding technical language. The series has 10 topics including radon, nuclear emergencies, transport, non-ionising radiation in general, and UV in particular. Over 1,500,000 broadsheets have now been issued. Eight of the At-a-Glance leaflets are available as slide sets with accompanying text to enable teachers and others to present the material.

Miscellaneous publications. This covers occasional scientific reports, usually with other organisations, various leaflets to publicised Board projects such as scientific conferences, and brochures describing various technical services and training courses provided by the Board. Of special interest is an A3-size poster for schools, produced by educational consultants, with information on radiation and radioactivity linked to the national science curriculum. The poster was distributed to all secondary schools in the UK and to some other educational establishments.

Radiological Protection Bulletin. The Bulletin is an in-house monthly journal, which the Board uses for prompt communication with a diverse readership in the UK and abroad. About 1200 copies are distributed each month, with a quarter going overseas.


The National Radiological Protection Board is in its 30th year and has established a high reputation for the quality of its work - research and technical services. It is perceived as independent, and its advice and methods are accepted widely.

The major themes that will be developed by the Board in its future Corporate Plan have been identified as:

· Non-ionising radiation
· Medical exposures of both patients and staff
· Studies on radiation induced cancer, particularly in childhood
· Transfer of radionuclides through the environment
· Accident response
· Training, education and communication, and
· Evaluation of the hazards associated with exposure to radon

These themes permeate the Departments of the Board and enable multidisciplinary teams to be brought together to solve any radiological problems facing the UK.

Table 1. Sources of income to NRPB outside the government grant


Income £M

Personal Monitoring Services and Metrology


Technical services to industry


Support for research and training (including EC)


Radon monitoring programme




Table 2. Breakdown of funding by area of work

Topic Area

(% Total Cost)

Electric and magnetic fields


Optical radiation


Emergency response


Advice and support for government


Medical issues


Cancer in children and adults


Genetic susceptibility to radiation induced cancer


Environmental doses


Contaminated land




Occupational exposure


Training, education and communication