Legislative and Regulatory Agenda

The Health Physics Society's Government Relations Program supports the following legislative and regulatory priorities. These priorities are supported by official positions and position statements of the Society or by Board actions.

High-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal

The Health Physics Society believes the management of spent fuel from nuclear reactors should be conducted in a manner that:

  1. Uses only scientifically valid and reasonable assumptions for setting protection standards.
  2. Adequately protects the public and environment from radiation exposure resulting from natural, accidental, or malevolent release of radioactive materials from the spent fuel.
  3. Accommodates evolving technologies.
  4. Does not permanently dispose of potentially valuable material that is contained in a spent-fuel assembly.

Therefore, the Health Physics Society:

  • Supports legislation that implements recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future.
  • Supports legislation that pursues monitored interim retrievable storage of spent fuel.

Human Capital

To ensure an adequate supply of qualified scientists and engineers, including radiation safety professionals, the Health Physics Society endorses a sustained and significant financial commitment by the Congress and federal agencies to support education of scientists and engineers, educators in math and science, research associated with these programs (including health physics), equipment and supplies for science teaching in secondary schools, and scholarships and financial support to colleges and universities in science and technology. The following data show the number of health physics degrees over the last eight years.

DEGREE DATA (http://orise.orau.gov/files/sep/HP-Brief-69.1-2011-data.pdf)

Table 1. Health Physics Degrees, 2003–2010

Year BS MS PhD
2010 62 9 15
2009* 77 83 9
2008 73 108 8
2007 79 91 28
2006 71 90 12
2005 78 77 14
2004 54 64 14
2003 56 73 25

*Data for one program was estimated for 2009.

Table 2. Health Physics Degrees by Curriculum, 2010

Curriculum Degrees
Health Physics Program 53 71 9
Medical Health Physics 0 18 4
Other Health Physics Option 9 0 2

Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal

Low-level radioactive waste (LLRW) is an inevitable byproduct of beneficial uses of radioactive materials. The 1980 LLRW Policy Act, as amended in 1985, established a framework for the states to provide for safe disposal of LLRW and encouraged the creation of regional compacts to develop an appropriate network of disposal sites. The deadlines established for the development of new sites have passed, with no new sites being opened. The Health Physics Society supports the following positions on disposal of LLRW:

  • The goal of managing LLRW is to ensure the safety of workers and the public and to protect the environment. Disposal, not long-term storage, is the best and safest long-term approach to achieve this goal.
  • The Health Physics Society believes that lack of competition in LLRW disposal options results in excessively high costs to waste generators, which impedes the use of nuclear technologies that provide significant benefits to society.
  • The Health Physics Society believes that the regulatory framework for management and disposal of LLRW needs a complete and coordinated overhaul.

Medical Radionuclide Production

The Health Physics Society believes that strengthening our nation's ability to produce radionuclides (radioisotopes) for the medical sciences must become a national priority. Improving the domestic production of radioisotopes can only be accomplished through timely congressional and federal agency action. The Health Physics Society supports a federal government commitment to radioisotope production, dedicated production facilities, and the concomitant education and training of scientists. These needs are as described in a report of the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies (NRC-IOM 2007).

Patient Release

The Health Physics Society has adopted a position recommending that patients who have been treated with therapeutic quantities of radiopharmaceuticals or who have received permanent implants of sealed radioactive sources for therapeutic purposes may be released from treatment facilities without harm to caregivers and the public if the conditions of release are based on patient-release criteria published by national and international radiation safety consensus organizations and by regulations (10 CFR 35.75) of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Radiological Quantities

It is the position of the Health Physics Society that the International System of Units (SI) should be used exclusively when expressing radiological quantities. The continued use of traditional, yet outdated, units to express radiological quantities in the United States can have significant repercussions on effective response to radiation emergencies. It will also have negative impacts on educating and conditioning future generations in the United States who are not well versed in the current scientific and internationally adopted radiological units.

Nearly all countries in the world, many with well-established nuclear industries, have effected this transition successfully, without compromising health and safety, and have demonstrated that complete conversion to current international units is certainly practical and doable. The Health Physics Society believes the exclusive use of SI units to express radiological quantities is the responsible practice to promote—a practice that is long overdue in the United States.