DoD's Medical Radiobiology Advisory Team: experts on the ground.

Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute, Bethesda, MD 20889-5603, USA.
Health physics (Impact Factor: 1.27). 05/2012; 102(5):489-92. DOI: 10.1097/HP.0b013e31824acb08
Source: PubMed


The Medical Radiobiology Advisory Team (MRAT) is the operations arm of the Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute (AFRRI), located at Naval Support Activity in Bethesda, MD. AFRRI is internationally recognized as expert in the biological effects of ionizing radiation research, training, and mitigation. During the U.S. Department of Defense's (DoD) response to the Fukushima Daiichi reactor incident, Operation Tomodachi, the MRAT provided guidance and advice to the U.S. Military leaders in Japan. This support helped ensure the safety of U.S. service members, family members, and civilians and supported the humanitarian relief in a coordinated effort with the Government of Japan (GOJ).

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    ABSTRACT: Following the Fukushima accident, the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) convened a task group to compile lessons learned from the nuclear reactor accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan, with respect to the ICRP system of radiological protection. In this memorandum the members of the task group express their personal views on issues arising during and after the accident, without explicit endorsement of or approval by the ICRP.While the affected people were largely protected against radiation exposure and no one incurred a lethal dose of radiation (or a dose sufficiently large to cause radiation sickness), many radiological protection questions were raised. The following issues were identified: inferring radiation risks (and the misunderstanding of nominal risk coefficients); attributing radiation effects from low dose exposures; quantifying radiation exposure; assessing the importance of internal exposures; managing emergency crises; protecting rescuers and volunteers; responding with medical aid; justifying necessary but disruptive protective actions; transiting from an emergency to an existing situation; rehabilitating evacuated areas; restricting individual doses of members of the public; caring for infants and children; categorising public exposures due to an accident; considering pregnant women and their foetuses and embryos; monitoring public protection; dealing with 'contamination' of territories, rubble and residues and consumer products; recognising the importance of psychological consequences; and fostering the sharing of information.Relevant ICRP Recommendations were scrutinised, lessons were collected and suggestions were compiled.It was concluded that the radiological protection community has an ethical duty to learn from the lessons of Fukushima and resolve any identified challenges. Before another large accident occurs, it should be ensured that inter alia: radiation risk coefficients of potential health effects are properly interpreted; the limitations of epidemiological studies for attributing radiation effects following low exposures are understood; any confusion on protection quantities and units is resolved; the potential hazard from the intake of radionuclides into the body is elucidated; rescuers and volunteers are protected with an ad hoc system; clear recommendations on crisis management and medical care and on recovery and rehabilitation are available; recommendations on public protection levels (including infant, children and pregnant women and their expected offspring) and associated issues are consistent and understandable; updated recommendations on public monitoring policy are available; acceptable (or tolerable) 'contamination' levels are clearly stated and defined; strategies for mitigating the serious psychological consequences arising from radiological accidents are sought; and, last but not least, failures in fostering information sharing on radiological protection policy after an accident need to be addressed with recommendations to minimise such lapses in communication.
    Journal of Radiological Protection 06/2013; 33(3):497-571. DOI:10.1088/0952-4746/33/3/497 · 1.70 Impact Factor