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Reformed Radiation Act into force on 15 December

Ministry of Social Affairs and Health 8.11.2018 14.09
Press release 164/2018
Reformed Radiation Act into force on 15 December

The aim on the reformed Radiation Act is to protect people's health from the damage caused by radiation and prevent and reduce environmental damage and other detrimental effects caused by radiation. Finland is implementing the EU's Basic Safety Standards Directive by reforming the Radiation Act and certain related acts. The President of Finland is to confirm the Act on 9 November and it is to enter into force on 15 December 2018.

The Radiation Act as a whole is being reformed

The new Act will apply to the following exposure situations: radiation practices, existing exposure situations and radiation hazards. The EU's Basic Safety Standards Directive lays down provisions on the responsibilities of operators using ionising radiation, on the safe use of radiation and on radiation safety in radiation hazard situations and existing exposure situations. The Radiation Act will clarify regulatory control and emphasise the principle of risk-based regulatory control.  

The implementation of the Basic Safety Standards Directive required Finland to make many structural and terminological changes to its radiation legislation. It was therefore appropriate to reform the radiation legislation as a whole in connection with the implementation of the Directive. The comprehensive reform also amends the Health Protection Act, the Criminal Code of Finland, the Nuclear Energy Act, the Act on Healthcare Appliances and Supplies, the Act on the Market Surveillance of Certain Products and the Act on the Recognition of Physicians Monitoring the Health of Radiation Workers in Category A.

Exposure to radiation must remain as low as possible

Under the new Act, the overall benefit of radiation practices and protection measures have to outweigh the detriment caused by them. Work-related exposure and the exposure of the public must remain at the lowest level practically possible in radiation practices and protection measures. In addition, exposure to radiation for medical purposes must be limited to the level that is necessary to achieve the results of the examination or treatment or to carry out the procedure in question. 

The proposal specifies the provisions on targeting radiation not only at patients, but also at asymptomatic persons.

The Act specifies the regulation of exposure to natural radiation, such as exposure to radon in indoor air and exposure of workers to natural radiation, for example, in mines.

Operators will have more responsibility

The new Act will increase operators' responsibilities and their risk-based monitoring activities.  For example, the operator must conduct a safety assessment based on the risks involved in their activities. The safety assessment involves assessing radiation exposures in the activities and identifying potential radiation safety incidents. The operator must in the safety assessment also present measures to ensure radiation safety, prevent the identified potential radiation safety incidents and prepare for the occurrence of such incidents.

In all activities requiring a safety licence, the operator has to consult a radiation safety expert when planning, implementing and monitoring safety protection measures concerning workers and members of the public, in accordance with the nature and extent of the operator's activities. In addition, the operator must appoint a radiation safety officer to monitor that staff at the place of work ensure radiation safety and follow regulations and guidelines.

Radiation safety experts and radiation safety officers have to possess the qualifications and radiation protection expertise required by the Radiation Act. Training in radiation protection may be included in a higher education degree or completed as separate continuing education and training.

Statutes concerning exposure for non-medical purposes to be included in the Act

The new Act also includes provisions on human exposure to radiation for non-medical imaging purposes, in which the main purpose of imaging is not to promote the person's health. These include X-ray examinations to determine the age of immigrants, for example.

Control of radon exposure becomes more effective – new reference values for homes and workplaces

Exposure to natural radiation, such as radon, will mainly be regulated in the same manner as exposure to radiation from other sources. This enables improved control of radon exposure. 

According to the new EU Basic Safety Standards Directive, the reference level for radon concentration is 300 Bq/m3 in dwellings, workplaces and other places with public access. If the radon concentration in the working area cannot be decreased below the reference level despite efforts, the operator has to obtain a safety licence for its operations. The Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority, STUK, can grant safety licences. The protection of workers from radiation must then be ensured in the same way as in all other radiation practices: for example, the radiation dose sustained by the worker has to be determined on a regular basis and the results have to be submitted to the Dose Register of radiation workers.

The Radiation Act and other statutes issued under it will provide more clearly how responsible parties (operators) have to notify STUK of practices that may cause exposure to radon. The Act also includes detailed provisions on the obligations to report and limit radon concentrations.

Regulations on non-ionising radiation to be reformed

The regulations on non-ionising radiation are being reformed, too, even though the Basic Safety Standards Directive does not apply to non-ionising radiation. The reason for this is the rapid technical development of the equipment using non-ionising radiation and the large variety of its different applications. The provisions ensure that applications related to non-ionising radiation will be safe and create a basis for effective risk-based control. 

As required by the Constitution, some provisions contained in decrees and the current instructions of the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority have been moved to the Act, as applicable. The Act authorises the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority to issue regulations on certain detailed and technical matters. 

Inquiries:

Helena Korpinen, Senior Specialist, tel. +358 2951 63317

Vesa Pekkola, Ministerial Adviser, tel. +358 295163282