|Low-Dose Radiation: Interagency Collaboration on Planning Research Could Improve Information on Health Effects|
The Department of Energy (DOE), Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Food and Drug Administration generally used the advice of scientific advisory bodies to develop and apply radiation protection requirements and guidance for workers and the public in the radiation exposure settings that GAO reviewed. These settings were: (1) the operation and decommissioning of nuclear power plants; (2) the cleanup of sites with radiological contamination; (3) the use of medical equipment that produces radiation; and (4) accidental or terrorism-related exposure to radiation. Specifically, the agencies relied on the advice of three scientific advisory bodies that supported the use of a model that assumes the risk of cancer increases with every incremental radiation exposure. Accordingly, the agencies have set regulatory dose limits and issued guidance to confine exposure to levels that reduce the risk of cancer, while recognizing that scientific uncertainties occur in estimating cancer risks from low-dose radiation. For example, NRC requires nuclear power plants to consider measures for limiting workers' exposure below NRC's regulatory dose limit, such as by using robots for maintenance work in radiation areas.