Whistleblowers vs. radiological protection and nuclear safety.

30.3.2022 20:28
Whistleblowers vs. radiological protection and nuclear safety.

Providing adequate protection to Whistleblowers has an impact on combating the occurrence of infringements in many sectors. Nuclear safety is one of the areas covered by Directive (EU) 2019/1937 of the European Parliament and of the Council. Activities undertaken within this sector are aimed at improving radiological protection and contributing to the responsible use of radioactive waste.

What is radiation protection?

Radioactivity that is not properly controlled and protected can pose a very high risk to humans. Environmental contamination with radioactive substances, e.g. from reactor failures, nuclear explosions, or resulting non-compliance with applicable standards, could lead to a huge ecological disaster. The contamination of food products itself can be associated with carcinogenicity and mutagenicity. These risks also apply to employees working in facilities where there is a risk of radioactive contamination, as they are more exposed to its harmful effects. That is why it is so important to ensure the safety of all people working in such risky positions.

Radiological protection is a set of activities and undertakings aimed at preventing exposure of people and the environment to ionizing radiation or at limiting its harmful impact on the health and life of future generations. Currently, radiation protection is based ontwo systems:

  • Licensing and supervision- consist in the acquisition, possession, use, and disposal of radioactive substances, which can only take place for strictly defined purposes and conditions, by authorized persons.
  • Dose limitation - the use of radiation sources can only take place in specific cases, in such a situation it is important to optimize protection against radiation and to comply with the regulations on dose limits.

An additional measure to ensure the safety of the radioactivity and nuclear protection sector is also the reporting of irregularities at an early stage of their occurrence. Signaling dangerous situations in this area, which, even in the slightest degree, may endanger people is so important that in extreme cases it can save health and even life. Due to the entry into force of the Whistleblower Protection Directive, all Whistleblowers, including radioactivity, are legally protected against any retaliation. Whistleblower is the system that allows for reporting violations by employees working in areas exposed to radiation.

Which pieces of legislation on radiological protection and nuclear safety are mentioned in the Whistleblower Protection Directive?

The Whistleblower Protection Directive was created to protect legally those who witness violations, directly or indirectly, and would then like to report these irregularities without fear of repercussions. The directive of 23 October 2019 lists the following legal acts that mention radioactive protection and nuclear safety:

  • Directive establishing a Community framework for the nuclear safety of nuclear installations.
  • Directive laying down requirements for the protection of the health of the public with regard to radioactive substances in water intended for human consumption.
  • Directive establishing basic safety standards to protect against the dangers arising from exposure to ionizing radiation.
  • Directive establishing a Community framework for the responsible and safe management of spent fuel and radioactive waste.
  • Directive on the supervision and control of shipments of radioactive waste and spent fuel.
  • Directive setting maximum permitted levels of radioactive contamination of food and feed following a nuclear accident or another radiological emergency.
  • Directive on the shipment of radioactive substances between the Member States.

In summary, the radioactivity sector is legally regulated by-laws that must be strictly adhered to and the methods provided for therein must be followed. Any situation that goes beyond the law and norms can have disastrous consequences both for people working directly in conditions that expose them to the harmful effects of radiation and for the entire environment in which we operate on a daily basis. Any irregularities should therefore be immediately signaled by means of an internal channel that has been specially created for this purpose. Whistleblower is the system for receiving and handling tickets, fully compliant with the requirements of the directive and ensuring the protection of the confidentiality of the identity of persons reporting violations.