IRSN, Institut de radioprotection et de sûreté nucléaire

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Research on a European scale

To ensure adequate efficiency and the continuation of research programs and their financing, scientists in the European Union now work as a network.

HLEG - High level expert group on European low-dose risk research

Group of experts set up in 2008.

Members: 6 people coming from national bodies or authorities involved in this field in Germany, Finland, France, Italy and the United Kingdom, one person from the European Commission and eight scientific experts.

Role: to identify unresolved key scientific issues and the most promising lines of research to be examined. To draw up a 30-year strategic agenda for low-dose research. To develop a durable operational structure.

Melodi - Multidisciplinary European low-dose initiative

A governance structure created in 2009.

Members: 10 national bodies including CEA (Commissariat à l’énergie atomique et aux energies alternatives) [French Atomic Energy and Alternative Energies Commission] and IRSN in France, BfS in Germany, ISS in Italy and STUK in Finland.

STRONG>Role: to ensure long-term financing for research, harmonize methodologies and interface between all the parties involved.

Wolfgang Weiss, chairman of Melodi:
“The complexity and multidisciplinary nature of research conducted on low doses are such that it can only be handled on a European scale, hence the existence of Melodi. To adapt in the best way possible the measures protecting populations and workers, we must ensure that national and European research programs are durable and well integrated. We would also like to encourage the widest possible communication of results and knowledge resulting from this research.”

Jacques Repussard, managing director of IRSN:
“The international radioprotection system, applicable in France, is partly based on the concept of “no-threshold linear relationship” between the dose received and the extra risk of occurrence of cancer. This is a very protective concept as it leads to the establishment of very low dose values. However it also leads to anxiety as it suggests that there is no dose without effect. The “low-dose” issue haunts society debate, even though considerable costs are dedicated to radioprotection. This no-threshold linear relationship has not been scientifically demonstrated at very low exposure levels. It results from a hypothesis: to extend to low doses a linearity ascertained at higher levels. It puts to one side the question of effects other than cancer. European countries have decided to combine their efforts to try to answer questions on the effects of low doses. That is the ambition of the European research platform, Melodi, organized by the IRSN and the CEA, which will cooperate with researchers from the USA and Japan.”

DoReMi – Low-dose research towards multidisciplinary integration

2009-2015 excellence network, operational tool of Melodi. 

Members: 12 European research bodies and universities.

Role: to help perpetuate research integration in Europe.


3 questions to Jean-René Jourdain

Pharm. D., Ph.D Radiobiology, representative for international partnerships and cross-departmental activities within the Directorate of Radiological Protection and Human Health at IRSN.

Why is the IRSN working on low doses?

We started thinking about it in 2000 after an increasing number of questions were being asked by the population. We are very attentive to questions raised by the general public, and at the time we did not have any results of experiments on which to base our answers. Hence the launch of the Envirhom program in 2001.

Will this research enable certain at-risk populations, such as nuclear workers, to be better protected?

Initially, it will mainly ensure that we are properly evaluating the whole range of risks, and not just cancers as is the case today. The monitoring and screening measures in the populations at risk can then be adapted.

Will you manage to determine a threshold under which there is no effect?

That is the major challenge we face in these studies, but I doubt we will manage it overall. At the moment, the basic principle is to say that as soon as you are above zero, there is a risk, that is the law of the no-threshold linear model. The aim of these studies is to re-examine this doctrine and perhaps, in the end, to define risk thresholds which could very certainly vary depending on the pathologies and the populations.       

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