Task Group 124
Application of the Principle of Justification

A Task Group under Committee 4

Background

The concept of justification was first introduced in ICRP Publication 26 (1977) as one of the fundamental principles of the Commission’s system of protection. The principle was intended to ensure the net benefit of a proposed activity in relation to the detriment of radiation. For medical exposure, it was broken down into three levels in Publication 73 1996): the generic justification of the use of radiation in medicine, the evidence-based justification of a defined procedure, and the justification of a procedure for an individual patient.

These concepts remain valid today. However, it has been demonstrated in the last decades that the decision-making process in radiological protection and safety requires not only scientific and technical rationality, but also consideration of societal and ethical values. As such, the recommendations for the application of the principle of justification should be revisited and modernised with reference to ethical values identified in Publication 138 (2018), as informed by practical experience from different exposure situations.

Mandate

The Task Group deliberates on application of the principle of justification in all three types of exposure situations. It will take particular note of situations where radiation exposure is a major concern, and at the same time, societal and ethical values are considered to have important implications. These include nuclear emergency preparedness and response, remedial actions for existing exposure situations, and planned use of radiation in the medical sector. All categories of exposure will be considered, be it humans (workers, members of the public, and patients) or non-humans.

In the light of developments since Publication 26 and practical experience, the TG will address the following issues with an emphasis on the ethical values described in Publication 138.

  • How to implement a holistic approach to justification in the context of wellbeing?
  • How to consider the social impact of activities involving radiation, whether or not it leads to actual exposure?
  • How to value benefits in health, economic and societal contexts, and how to compare them with harmful effects of radiation including those from potential exposure?
  • How to balance individual rights and the common good?
  • How to consider and value the benefit of protecting non-human entities and ecosystems?
  • How to identify and involve stakeholders in the process of justification, and who is responsible for the final decision?
  • How to keep consistency of the principles of radiological protection as a whole?

Process

The Task Group will develop a short list of situations where societal ethical values would be of particular importance. Open topical workshops will be organised in cooperation with liaison organisations in formal relation with ICRP (e.g. IAEA, IRPA, OECD NEA, and WHO) to draw lessons from past experience in those situations. The workshops are expected to involve experts in different fields to cover various aspects of justification.

Based on the lessons learned, the Task Group will compile a report that identifies essential elements and key perspectives in the decision-making process for justification. Another workshop will be held to gather feedback on the draft report as part of the public consultation. Finally, an open webinar will be organised to share the findings after the report is published.

Since justification is a fundamental and cross-cutting issue, liaison with other Task Groups will be sought as necessary to avoid duplication of work and to ensure alignment of ICRP positions.

Deliverables

The Task Group will develop a report for publication in Annals of the ICRP. It aims to clarify what ‘do more good than harm’ means in society today and on what basis the judgement should be made. In addition, the Task Group will develop materials suitable for ICRPædia in collaboration with the Scientific Secretariat.

Nobuhiko Ban (Chair), Nuclear Regulation Authority, Japan
Julie Burtt (Secretary), Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, Canada