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Radiation protection is foundational to harnessing the societal benefits of radiation in nuclear energy, security and medicine applications.

Significant challenges in radiation protection remain unaddressed for the nuclear fuel cycle, nuclear medicine, emergency response, national defense, and space exploration, as the United States is lacking a coherent research strategy prioritizing radiation protection mission needs and gaps in scientific knowledge to meet these needs.

Research and development in the field of radiation protection calls for cooperation among governmental agencies, emergency responders, research organizations, and the academic community.

Amidst atrophying national expertise in radiation protection, the Radiation Protection Research Needs Workshop, held June 5-6, 2017, at Pollard Technology Conference Center in Oak Ridge, Tenn., was spearheaded by ORAU, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Health Physics Society. The proceedings of the workshop were published in the January 2019 edition of Health Physics: The Radiation Safety Journal.

“The success of this workshop included identifying and getting the research needs in front of the right people, which we achieved, with the goal to ultimately get resources flowing,” said Eric Abelquist, PhD, ORAU executive vice president and chief research officer, who co-chaired the workshop. “The workshop should positively influence research dollars to academic health physics programs; health physics enrollments have been on the decline at U.S. academic universities for the past 10 years, according to the ORISE Health Physics Enrollments and Degrees Survey.”

The workshop facilitated critical dialogue among radiation stakeholders in the governmental and scientific communities, including national laboratories, academic institutions, and industry partners. The workshop featured presentations representing 12 federal agencies and breakout sessions involving the identification of scientific drivers by subject matter experts in each of the following areas: new fuel cycles/reactors, dosimetry, medical physics, instrumentation and operations, decontamination and decommissioning, space radiation, national defense, emergency response, environmental modeling, and low-dose effects.

The goal of this workshop was to seek stakeholder input toward the development of a national strategic research agenda in the field of radiation protection. Consequently, the Health Physics Society has established a Special Task Force on Health Physics Research Needs, tasked with the prioritization of scientific drivers in radiation protection for the development of a national strategic research agenda.

Synopsis of the Oak Ridge Radiation Protection Research Needs Workshop