The Three R’s of Reasonable in Radiological Protection: Relationships, Rationale, and Resources


Journal of Radiological ProtectionVolume 42Number 2


Central to applying the principle of optimisation in the system of radiological protection is the evaluation of what level of radiation exposure should be considered 'as low as reasonably achievable' (ALARA), after taking into account the prevailing circumstances. Determining what is 'reasonable' is an abstract, although somewhat intuitive concept with many potential interpretations depending on both the situation and those involved, whether individuals or organisations. There are common themes in the types of considerations that need to be addressed to determine 'reasonableness' regardless of the exposure situation. However, despite the consistent and agreeable nature of these themes, there remains a gap in how to apply them in real situations. For example, without measurable goalposts (or a clear process for setting such goalposts) for determining what constitutes ALARA, we can find ourselves misinterpreting the optimisation process as keeping exposures 'as low as possible'. We propose herein, by consolidating and building on existing ideas, an easily understandable and actionable 'reasonableness' framework. This simple, yet broadly applicable tool is intended to help radiation protection experts in the systematic, deliberative, and collaborative reflection on all of the factors that make up 'reasonable' before making a decision—whether it be a proposed medical treatment or clean-up of a contaminated site. Each process execution and decision itself will necessarily retain the complexity of the prevailing circumstance. The proposed 'Rs' of Reasonable represent Relationships (stakeholders, empathy, and trust), Rationale (contextual, technical, and ethical), and Resources (technological, financial, and time).