JOURNAL OF RADIOLOGICAL PROTECTION
J. Radiol. Prot. 27 (2007) 147–156 doi:10.1088/0952-4746/27/2/002
Ethics and radiation protection
Sven Ove Hansson
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- Radiation protection issues related to the use of nuclear power (2012)
- Black Elephants and Black Swans of Nuclear Safety (2011)http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/21550085.2011.605853
- Ethical Aspects of Radiation Risk Management (2012)http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/record.jsf?pid=diva2%3A544731&dswid=343
- Principles of protection: a formal approach for evaluating dose distributions (2006)
- Trivial Risks and the New Radiation Protection System (2004)
- (76) The 1977 Recommendations were very concerned with the bases for decidingwhat is reasonably achievable in dose reduction. The principle of justification aims todo more good than harm, and that of optimisation aims to maximise the margin ofgood over harm for society as a whole. They therefore satisfy the utilitarian principleof ethics, also called ‘consequence ethics’, proposed primarily by Jeremy Benthamand John Stuart Mill (Mill, 2002). Utilitarians judge actions by their overall conse-quences, usually by comparing, in monetary terms, the relevant benefits (e.g. statis-tical estimates of lives saved) obtained by a particular protective measure with thenet cost of introducing that measure.
- (77) On the other hand, the principle of applying dose limits aims to protect therights of the individual not to be exposed to an excessive level of harm, even if thiscould cause great problems for society at large. This principle therefore satisfies thedeontological principle of ethics, also called ‘duty ethics’, proposed primarily byImmanuel Kant (Broad, 1978). Proponents of this principle emphasise the strictnessof moral limits.
- Mill, J.S., 2002. Utilitarianism and On Liberty. Including ‘Essay on Bentham’ and Selections from theWritings of Jeremy Bentham and John Austin. Warnock, M. (Ed.), second ed. Blackwell Publishing,Oxford
3.2.4. The ethical basis of radiological protection
- (107) Before the Second World War, the ethical basis of radiological protectionwas not formally discussed. Its sole aim was to prevent deterministic harm to indi-vidual human beings, and this can be seen simply as an example of ‘virtue ethics’.
- (108) With increasing weight being given to optimisation in the 1960s and 1970s,the recommendations of ICRP were largely based on utilitarian consequence ethics,emphasising what is best for society. The recommendations from ICRP that havebeen made in the last 10 years have emphasised controls on the maximum dose orrisk to the individual. There has been a corresponding reduction in the emphasison collective dose and cost–benefit analysis. Overall, this reflects a shift of emphasisof the ethical position, paying less attention to utilitarian values. Instead, the Commission has now increased its emphasis on deontological duty ethics, emphasis-ing what is best for the individual.
- (109) Inevitably, radiological protection (and indeed any form of regulation orprotection against some noxious agent) will require a balancing between these twoethical principles. No practical protection work can be based on an absolute appli-cation of one principle alone; however, one can give more emphasis to one of theprinciples without entirely discarding the other (Hansson, 2007). This is the develop-ment seen fromPublication 26toPublication 103.
3.2.5. Protection methods
- (110) The Commission’s early recommendations paid considerable attention to thepractical aspects of shielding, working methods, and so forth. When numerical ad-vice was introduced, it was in terms of dose limits (or, at least, limits on exposurerates). WithPublication 26(ICRP, 1977), the emphasis was shifted towards optimi-sation.Publication 60(ICRP, 1991) introduced the concept of dose and risk con-straints, with the two purposes of increasing equity (i.e. more emphasis ondeontological ethics) and providing a practical tool for the control of multiplesources. However, the level of detail concerning constraints inPublication 60wasinsufficient. This was remedied inPublication 103(ICRP, 2007); the purpose anduse of constraints is discussed in detail, and hopefully this valuable tool will nowbe utilised to the full in practical radiological protection.