Three international organizations recommend radiation protection levels: the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the International Commission on Radiation Units and Measurements (ICRU).
ICRP. The Second International Congress of Radiology established the ICRP in 1928. Although initially concerned with the safety of medical radiology, it now covers safety for all sources of radiation. Its mission is “to deal with the basic principles of radiation protection and to leave to various national protection committees the responsibility of introducing the detailed technical regulations, recommendations or codes of practice best suited to the needs of their individual countries.” The ICRP is the principal source of recommendations on safe radiation levels. Members come from many countries and include scientists, physicians and engineers.
IAEA. Organized in 1956 to promote the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, the IAEA is a specialized agency of the United Nations. The IAEA publishes both standards and recommendations in addition to books on nuclear science and technology written by consultants or groups of experts invited from member states.
ICRU. Created in 1925, the ICRU develops international recommendations regarding quantities and units of radiation and radioactivity, procedures for their measurement and application in clinical radiology and radiobiology, and physical data needed to ensure uniformity in reporting on their applications.
U.S. groups involved with recommending radiation standards include the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements (NCRP) and federal and state agencies.
NCRP. The NCRP began its work in 1929 as the Advisory Committee on X-Ray and Radium Protection. Congress chartered the organization in 1964 as the NCRP to address the scientific and technical aspects of radiation protection. The nonprofit corporation is not a federal agency, although its recommendations are part of the basis of federal, state and local regulations dealing with radiation hazards. The organization draws its members from public and private universities, medical centers, national and private laboratories, the government, and industry solely on the basis of their scientific expertise.
EPA. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is responsible for recommending federal guidance on radiation protection for use by federal agencies in their regulatory processes and for establishing standards to protect the general environment from radioactive material under a variety of authorities, including the Clean Air Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, Superfund and Atomic Energy Act.
NRC. The independent NRC is the federal agency responsible for regulating commercial nuclear technologies. The NRC prescribes and enforces separate limits on the amount of radiation workers and members of the public can receive from all pathways, such as air and water. These regulations apply to operators of nuclear power plants, as well as industrial and medical facilities licensed to use man-made radioactive materials. The NRC bases its regulations on recommendations made by the NCRP and the ICRP and on the EPA’s federal guidance and standards.