A core value of the Department of Energy (DOE) is to ensure the health, safety, and security of DOE employees, contractors, and subcontractors. The Office of Health and Safety (AU-10) within the Office of Environment, Health Safety and Security (AU) provides the Department with effective and consistent policy development, technical assistance, training, and strategies necessary to better coordinate and integrate health, safety, environment, and security. The office’s responsibilities is developing and issuing the DOE’s occupational radiation protection policy, requirements and guidance to ensure that workers are adequately protected from hazards associated with DOE sites and operations. In addition, AU-10 engages in the conduct of domestic and international health studies that provide new knowledge and information about the human response to ionizing radiation in the workplace or people exposed in communities as a result of nuclear accidents.
AU-10 supports and manages the Radiation Effects Research Foundation (RERF) in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in partnership with the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. The data from the studies of the atomic bomb survivors has served as the primary basis for national and international radiation protection standards. AU-10 also supports a major effort with the Russian government in determining the long-term health effects of radiation exposures to the workers and populations living near the Mayak nuclear production site in Ozersk. These collaborative studies are aimed at answering critical questions on the effects of long-term, low-dose rate exposures to both external and internal radiation. Domestic studies supported by AU-10 are emphasizing radiation epidemiology of large numbers of workers in order to better understand the effects of low-dose exposures. Supporting these studies is an important responsibility of DOE AU and that the results will strengthen radiation protection standards.
In addition, AU-10 supports the United States Transuranium and Uranium Registries (USTUR). The goal of the program is to understand the biokinetics, dosimetry, and potential health effects of transuranic elements and uranium based on actual human experience. All records of registrants are kept secure to ensure the privacy of USTUR donors. At present, the USTUR has over 400 registrants, of whom about 14% are still alive. The USTUR also maintains the National Human Radiobiology Tissue Repository, an archive of almost 9,000 tissue samples. Recent advances in molecular biology techniques have been applied to these tissues and have yielded data that were undreamed of when the registries were established.
AU-10 staff organized and chaired a technical session on International and domestic health studies among radiation exposed at the Conference on Radiation and Health (CRH) in conjunction with the 64th Annual Meeting of the Radiation Research Society (RRS) in Chicago.
The emphasis of the conference was on the information gleaned to date from radiobiology, medicine, chemistry and epidemiology; to foster collaboration within a community of researchers interested in the study of the properties and effects of radiation; and disseminate knowledge in radiation research to the scientific community and the public. More than 1,500 people attended the meeting; they were from Academia, Federal Agencies, and private organizations from the U.S. and the international community, including renowned scientists. The goal of the technical session was to promote awareness about AU-10’s support of health studies programs. Speakers covered the following topics
- Recent findings of radiation risk of cancer incidence in the atomic bomb survivors: Kotaro Ozasa
- Overview of the DOE Russian health study program and summary of key research findings: Pat Worthington
- The US transuranium and uranium registries: 50 years of contributions to plutonium in humans: Sergei Tolmachev
- Mallinckrodt Chemical Works: a cauldron of uranium exposures and health effects: Betsy Ellis
- Million Person Study of low dose health effects-focus on DOE workers: John Boice
AU-10 staff also assisted with organizing a technical session on What is the current state of knowledge in low dose radiobiology? Speakers covered the following topics
- Low-dose overview: Mary Helen Barcellos-Hoff
- Non-targeted effects: Considerations for Earth and Space research: Marianne Sowa
- Insight from transcriptomics into low-dose radiobiology: Sally Amundson
- Multistage clonal expansion models of carcinogenesis: toward a mechanistic understanding of neoplastic progression to cancer: Georg Luebeck
- European overview: Sisko Salomaa
At the meeting, AU’s Office of Domestic and International Health Studies staff presented a technical poster on Update on Causes of Death among 351 Former Nuclear Workers in the United States Transuranium and Uranium Registries during a very elaborated technical poster session that was attended by all conference participants.
The sessions organized by AU-10 staff were well attended and participants were engaged with the discussion after each presentations. Participants were also expressed an interest to collaborate with each speakers. In additions, national and international experts highlighted the significant efforts by DOE to support these studies and to have the U.S. Transuranium and Uranium Registries and the significant contribution from the registries to modeling of internal radionuclides depositions.
At the end, the organizing committees of the RRS-CRH welcomed DOE organizing future technical sessions that are of important to DOE and to the radiation research communities.