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Radiation Protection Needs Research Workshop held in Oak Ridge discusses needs during next three to five years

More than 100 subject matter experts from federal agencies, universities and private sector organizations attended this invitation-only workshop

OAK RIDGE, Tenn.—ORAU, Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Center for Radiation Protection Knowledge and the Health Physics Society (HPS) hosted the Radiation Protection Research Needs Workshop recently in Pollard Technology Conference Center. The purpose of the workshop was to convene health physics academic programs, federal agencies and industry to discuss radiation protection research needs during the next three to five years.

More than 100 representatives from 12 federal agencies, numerous universities and private sector organizations attended this invitation-only workshop. The workshop was co-chaired by ORAU Executive Vice President and Chief Research Officer Eric Abelquist, Ph.D., and Nolan Hertel, Ph.D., nuclear and radiological engineering professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

“This meeting allowed me to learn interagency radiation/nuclear detection needs that are applicable to the Department of Homeland Security Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO),” said Executive Officer Ricardo (Rick) Reyes from DNDO. “I was able to further link other agencies with the right people to collaborate in common research and development.”

Workshop participants discussed what specific research topics would significantly advance radiation protection in their respective organization/area and where are the gaps between established practices/knowledge and identified needs occurred. Then, the attendees prioritized the need for the advancements and included the levels of risk/uncertainties to achieve the needs.

“While the input from various attendees varied greatly as to what the principal research needs are, several themes emerged from the workshop,” Dr. Hertel noted. “Themes centered on radiation protection issues, detection challenges, and health impacts of low-dose radiation exposure.”

Specifically, the workshop themes included improving the radiological protection of workers, the public and the environment from radiation exposures; improving the monitoring, detection and assessment of radioactivity in the environment; and better understanding the biological effects of exposure to low-dose radiation effects.

“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 Abelquist. “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.”

Three outcomes from the workshop are being produced, including a strategic research agenda that will provide a detailed report on the radiation protection research needs in the U.S.” with prioritized objectives in each mission area and identification of stakeholders. This document will be presented to Congressional contacts and appropriators.

The second outcome includes a full report of the workshop proceedings. The Health Physics Journal is scheduled to run an article that highlights these proceedings.

The third outcome includes subsequent roundtables and workshops at upcoming HPS meetings in addition to a possible research needs committee being created under the HPS organization.

About ORAU

ORAU provides innovative scientific and technical solutions to advance national priorities in science, education, security and health. Through specialized teams of experts, unique laboratory capabilities and access to a consortium of more than 100 major Ph.D.-granting institutions, ORAU works with federal, state, local and commercial customers to advance national priorities and serve the public interest. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation and federal contractor, ORAU manages the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

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