Environment News Service

AmeriScan: September 22, 1999

RULES PROTECTING NUCLEAR WORKERS REVISED

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is revising its regulations governing the use of respiratory protection equipment and other controls to reduce worker exposure to radioactive materials. The agency says the revised rules provide greater assurance that workers' radiation exposures will be "as low as is reasonably achievable." The new rules are designed to be more flexible and easier to implement. The NRC believes the new rules will save licensees a total of about $1.5 million per year, with no reduction in worker health and safety. The changes emphasize controlling radiation contamination on surfaces and in the air, instead of the use of respiratory protection devices, which the NRC says tend to increase external radiation doses and worker stress. Process and engineering controls, decontamination of work areas, access controls, and other procedures are among the measures recommended by the agency. The NRC is approving new respiratory protection devices that have been proven more effective, and discouraging the use of other devices that field tests have shown to be less effective. The NRC has also revised its requirements for respiratory protection procedures such as testing to evaluate the fit of a respirator on a particular individual. The details of the final rules will be published in the Federal Register soon.

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