Applicability of Radiation-Response Models to Low-Dose Protection Standards

Brief Overview of the ANS and HPS Joint Conference

Wayne M. Glines, CHP

Nearly 200 attendees gathered in Pasco, Washington, 1–3 October 2018 to participate in the joint American Nuclear Society (ANS) and Health Physics Society (HPS) conference "Applicability of Radiation-Response Models to Low-Dose Protection Standards." This was a true international conference with attendees from 13 countries including Australia, Austria, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, India, Japan, Korea, Poland, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, and the United States. These attendees were drawn from a wide diversity of disciplines and backgrounds including research scientists, radiobiologists, epidemiologists, health physicists, medical practitioners, policy makers, regulators, educators, students, media representatives, and interested members of industry and the public. Numerous international and national scientific advisory and regulatory agencies were represented including the International Commission on Radiological Protection, International Atomic Energy Agency, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, South Australian Environment Protection Authority, U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Following welcoming introductory comments by Dr. Alan Waltar, chair of the Conference Organizing Committee and past president of the ANS, Mr. Mike Lawrence, past senior DOE manager and associate laboratory director at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, gave a brief overview of the goals of the conference:

  1. Explore the current scientific knowledge and understanding of low-dose radiation effects.
  2. Consider the applicability of this knowledge as the scientific foundation for current radiation protection standards.
  3. Recommend a path forward.

What followed were three days packed full with engrossing scientific presentations, lively panel discussions, and stimulating comments and questions from the floor. The conference was organized as a single set of plenary sessions and panel discussions so all conference attendees could attend all sessions and discussions. Over the course of the three-day conference there were nine plenary sessions addressing topics from "Dose-Response Relationships in the Context of Standards for Radiation Protection" to "Mechanistic Biology and Radiation Standards" to "Risk Communication, Fear and Regulations," which included 40 technical presentations. Keynote speakers during the plenary sessions included Dr. David Brenner, Columbia University; Dr. Roger McClellan, member of the National Academy of Medicine; Dr. Antone Brooks, former chief scientist for the DOE Low Dose Program; Dr. Darrell Fisher, past president of the HPS; and Dr. Cynthia McCollough, Mayo Clinic. In addition to the plenary sessions, there were six panel discussions on topics ranging from "Can Regulators Accommodate an Alternative Dose-Response Paradigm?" to "Can We use Mechanistic Data in Risk Assessment?" to "Requirements to Update Regulations." Over 30 experts covering a wide range of scientific, policy making, and communications disciplines participated in these panel discussions. Those participants who were not involved in a plenary presentation or panel discussion were offered the opportunity to present a poster at the conference. As a result, an extensive poster session with over 30 posters was presented. Several blocks of time were dedicated for conference participants to review these posters and discuss topics presented with the authors.

On the afternoon of the final day of the conference, a seventh panel discussion was convened to discuss the primary ideas and concepts that had emerged over the course of the conference and to start the formulation of a path forward for achieving the stated goals of the conference. The organizing committee of the conference stated that it would continue to work to develop a path forward, including what actions would be necessary to achieve these goals, who would be involved in such actions, and who would be responsible for accomplishing the action.

Future newsletter articles will provide more detailed discussions of the main scientific, policy making, regulatory, and communications topics discussed at the conference, as well as continuing efforts of the organizing committee to achieve the goals of the conference that are of significant importance to all radiation protection professionals. Additional materials from the conference—e.g., complete program, technical presentations, posters, author biographies—may be found on the meeting website.

Conference General Chair Dr. Alan Walter addressing participants at the opening of "Applicability of Radiation-Response Models to Low-Dose Protection Standards."
Photo courtesy of Dr. Daniel Strom