Date of Award

5-2019

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Education

Major Professor

Cristina S. Barroso

Committee Members

Jiangang Chen, Robert Nobles, Laurence F. Miller

Abstract

OBJECTIVE: An exploratory analysis demonstrating that U.S. radiation policymaking should be remade in a manner that considers the risk tradeoffs associated with dose-limiting regulations.METHODS: Three studies contribute separate chapters to this manuscript. The first study is a systematic review conforming to PRISMA guidelines. PubMed and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s web-based public recordkeeping database were searched for evidence demonstrating a concern for risk tradeoff. The second study conceptualizes a theory based model for predicting risk tradeoff in radiation policymaking. The model integrates sources of risk tradeoff and constructs of moral disengagement theory. The third study reviews radiological data obtained during 11 cyclotron decommissioning projects. The data are translated into meaningful metrics that are valuable for examining risk tradeoffs made by low-level radioactive waste policymaking.RESULTS: A total of 64 relevant documents were returned by the literature review, but only eight documents were concerned with radiation risks. Only one of the documents reflects an analysis of risk tradeoff, whereas six express a need for forward-thinking policymaking that considers countervailing risks. The result of the second study is an illustrative conceptual model. The model predicts that well-intentioned policymakers, faced with jurisdictional boundaries and other pervasive sources of risk tradeoff, may offer policy solutions that reduce target risks but ignore countervailing risks. Policymaking accomplished in this manner will fail to offer maximum risk protection. Calculated dose equivalents for the 11 sites examined by the third study ranged from 0.01 to 43.2 mSv y-1 and correspond to a risk of 0.1 to 432 extra cases of solid cancer or leukemia per 100,000 persons. Waste from nine of the sites exceeds the dose limit specified in the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s radiological criteria for unrestricted use. Notwithstanding such findings, cyclotron waste is not regulated as low-level radioactive waste.CONCLUSIONS: The paradigm for radiation protection policymaking should be remade in a manner that looks beyond the perceived immediate benefits of limiting dose. For a new paradigm to prevail, research that examines risk tradeoffs with a logical framework is needed, and the public must be educated on the unembellished actual risks associated with radiation.

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