Herbert Parker, in his keynote address at the 1971 Health Physics Society Topical Symposium in Richland, WA, made an interesting comment which questioned whether the increasing number of radiation protection handbooks really contributed to solving the basic problems of radiation safety. He estimated that by the year 1991 there should be at least 1897 radiation protection handbooks. The U.S. regulator, charged with the responsibility of assuring the protection of the worker, the public and the environment, must face this myriad of expert reports and derive from them radiation protection norms for implementation. Like his European counterpart, the regulator derives requirements based on standards and recommendations of national and international scientific authorities, such as the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) and the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements (NCRP). In recent years, the reports from these scientific authorities recommend changes ranging from simple to complex. The fundamental philosophy of the standards has slowly evolved from a consideration of the risk to individual organs to the consideration of the “total” risk to the whole body. This philosophy now appears to be evolving from one that considers the risk associated with radiation in comparison with other safe industries to one that balances the risk from radiation with other occupational sources of risk. Nonetheless, if the recommendations of scientific authorities were the only driving force behind the U.S. regulations, the life of the regulator would be relatively easy. Recommendations must be balanced with legal-social-political issues and the resources needed to implement the recommendations. Consideration must also be given to the technical ability to implement changes; for example, the adequacy of measurement technology. This paper will present a summary point of view on possible issues confronting the U.S. regulator's plans far the future.
©1988Health Physics Society