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The Argentine Radiation Protection Society, SAR, organized the 12th Congress of the International Radiation Protection Association in Buenos Aires, on October 19 –24, 2008, under the motto ‘Strengthening Radiation Protection Worldwide’.
The Congress was declared of ‘national interest’ by the Argentine Government, and wholly supported by the relevant governmental offices, notably by the Argentine’s Chancellery and the Nuclear Regulatory Authority (ARN). The Congress was inaugurated by the Argentine representative to the UN organizations in Vienna, Ambassador Eugenio María Curia, and the President of the Board of Directors of ARN, Dr. Raúl Racana, welcomed by SAR President, Ana María Bomben, and formally opened by IRPA President, Phil Metcalf.

IRPA12 activities were planned and coordinated by the Congress’ Organizing Committee and SAR authorities, over four year of intensive work. The Congress programme was developed by the IRPA12 Programme Committee, chaired by Prof. Eduardo Gallego (Spain), in consultation with the Congress’ President.

The following summary points aims at squeezing the various outcomes into a concentrate of the main findings. These are as follows:

  • The epistemological basis of the sciences of radiation exposure and its effects, which provides the foundation for radiation protection, was generally corroborated and found to be sound, reliable and sensible.
  • The globally accepted radiation protection paradigm, which has been developed by the ICRP over the years and currently provides the foundation for most national and international radiation protection normative, was generally re-endorsed while recognizing that it is being reviewed and will be adjourned.
  • The radiation protection practitioners in nuclear, medical and other activities making use of radiation, who massively attended the Congress, showed satisfaction with the developments and contentment with the progress reached by the fast growing global radiation safety regime being build by relevant national and intergovernmental organizations.

Surprisingly elevated attendance (1710 people) turned the Congress into one of the most popular international events dedicated to the protection against radiation exposure. More than 1382 of the attendees were radiation protection and safety specialists and practitioners, including 46 members of the Organizing Committee. There were also 140 exhibitors, 140 accompanying persons and 48 organizing staff. More than 1500 papers were submitted. It was very encouraging to see such global expertise, travelling to a distant austral destination, willing to share experience with Latin-American colleagues.
Such wide, ample and extensive attendance could be reached thanks to the support of many national and international bodies coordinated by the Congress Support Committee chaired by Khammar Mrabit (Morocco). The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) co-sponsored the event. The ARN Committee provided an extraordinary financial support to Latin-American scientist wishing to attend the Congress. There was also substantive help from many national radiation protection societies, from many regional organizations, such as the Forum of Ibero-American Regulators, the Nuclear Energy Agency of the OECD (NEA), the European Commission and, off course, from IRPA itself.

IRPA12 programme addressed the three main fields of radiation protection, as follows:

  • the epistemology of radiation, namely the theory of current knowledge on the physics and biology of radiation exposure and its effects, particularly in relation to its methods, validity and scope;
  • the paradigm of radiation protection, namely the universal conceptual models used for keeping people safe from health effects due to radiation exposure; and,
  • the practice of radiation safety, namely the actual application and use of radiation protection plans and methodologies by practitioners and industries making use of radiation.

Three Background Sessions provided the status of information on these three fields.
Within the above fields, IRPA12 focused on 10 Areas of Knowledge.

  • Thirty-eight Topical Sessions addressed the major topics within the areas of knowledge inside the three fundamental fields, Keynote speakers addressed the status on each topic and were considered at these Topical sessions. A Rapporteur summarized the relevant findings of more than 1500 contributed papers, namely papers accepted by the Congress’ Programme Committee. Around 250 contributed papers were presented orally and the rest as posters. More than 1000 poster were displayed and discussed at three very well attended poster sessions. Ten of these posters received IRPA Poster Awards.

Four Round Tables discussed specific issues, some of them distinctive for IRPA Congresses, such as the legal aspects of radiation protection or the denial of radioactive material transport.

Each session featured an open forum for ample debate and, as a result, Topical contributions were widely discussed. The Chairpersons of the Topical Sessions, with the assistance of local Scientific Secretaries summed up the various outcomes in Concluding Plenary Sessions.

In addition, also for the first time at IRPA Congresses, IRPA12 featured Working Lunches presenting speakers on selected topics, The Strategy for Radiological Security and The Radiation Protection in Life-Extension Programs for Nuclear Power Plants.
The programme included 20 Refreshing Courses, with accreditation and 3 Updating Seminars covering the areas of radiological protection of patients, radiation protection in NORM industries and radiation protection in the nuclear industry.

 Awarding and Commemoration

There were also several awarding ceremonies, some involving outstanding plenary presentations.
Dr. Christian Streffer (Germany) received the 2008 Sievert Award and presented the traditional “Sievert Lecture” entitled, Radiological Protection: Challenges and Fascinations of Biological Research.
The Congress was also very privileged to host a ceremony marking the 80th Jubilee of the International Commission on Radiological Protection, ICRP, which included an ad hoc presentation by the former ICRP Chairman, Professor Roger Clarke (U.K.).

Dr. K. Sankaranarayanan (India/ the Netherlands) was awarded with the 2008 Gold Medal of the Swedish Academy in recognition of his long standing investigations on hereditable radiation effects; the medal was presented by H.E. the Swedish Ambassador in Buenos Aires.

In addition, the memory of Dr. Dan J. Beninson, the founder of radiation protection in Argentina, was evoked in a simple ceremony. Dr. Bo Lindell (Sweden), one of the forefathers of radiation protection, addressed the Congress in a film remembering Dr. Beninson.

Last but not least, SAR instituted at IRPA12 the Celso Papadopulos Award for radiation protection regulators.

The Congress featured a rich social programme, beginning on Sunday night with a cocktail party at the Palacio Paz. This was followed on Tuesday with a Tango Show at the Congress venue, and on Thursday with a show and Congress dinner. In addition, a parallel exhibition on radiation protection for the general public took place at the ‘Casa de la Cultura’ (Culture Hall) of Buenos Aires City, under the motto ¨Have you said Radiation Protection?”. This impressive technical/artistic display was organized by a collaborative effort of the Governments of France and of the City of Buenos Aires together with the Argentine Nuclear Regulatory Authority.

IRPA12 also presented the occasion for IRPA to conduct its business. This included the Associate Societies Forum, which featured a presentation of the Status of the Association, followed by a review of a draft guidance document on Stakeholder Engagement.
IRPA12 was also the occasion for electing new IRPA E.C. officers and members.

I would like to express my gratitude to the International Congress Programme Committee (ICPC), the International Congress Organizing Committee (ICOC), the International Congress Support Committee (ICSC), the IRPA Executive Council and the sponsoring organizations. I would like to mention specially the Argentina Regulatory Authority for its support

I would like to thank Eduardo Gallego, María del Rosario Pérez and Beatriz Gregori who supported the Scientific Program, Elias Palacios and Susana Papadópulos in the Organizing Committee, Khammar Murabit in the Support Committee and all the members of the Argentine Radioprotection Society (SAR) headed by its President Ana Bomben, who have worked intensely in this project for more than 4 years.

Abel J. González
IRPA Vice-President for Congress Affairs
President of IRPA 12 International Congress