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Ionising Radiation / Radiation Safety FAQ - Radiation Safety - Compliance

Difference between a Radiation Protection Adviser (RPA) and a Radioactive Waste Adviser (RWA)?

The post of Radioactive Waste Adviser (RWA) is recent (within the last 12 months) and must not be confused with the role of the Radiation Protection Adviser (RPA). Confusion may arise since the RPA has for some time also provided the role of a RWA – except in name. In fact, in many cases your appointed RPA will continue to do exactly what they did before (with respect to radioactive substances and waste disposal), but now they will do this whilst wearing their specific ‘RWA’ hat. In addition, the Radioactive Waste Adviser should be appointed in writing – in most cases this can be added to the traditional RPA appointment letter (unless the roles of RPA and RWA are undertaken by different individuals).

Radiation Protection Adviser (RPA)

The Radiation Protection Adviser is a requirement of the Ionising Radiations Regulations 1999 (IRR99) which deals with the safe and compliant use of all sources of ionising radiation (sealed and unsealed radioactive sources and all forms of electrically generated ionising radiation). These regulations deal with employee and public safety, and this is primarily what the RPA provides advice on. For a complete description of the RPA role please see our IRR 99 Guidance (Regulation 13 – Radiation Protection Adviser).

For users who work with radioactive sources (either sealed or unsealed) or radioactive waste, there is a requirement for have permits in place. These permits contain a number of conditions that the user must comply with. Traditionally the RPA has provided advice on compliance, and early permits (and the former Registrations and Authorisations) made reference to consulting a RPA or other suitable person (Qualified Expert). Indeed at the EU level there was never any distinction between a RPA or RWA – only the term Qualified Expert is recognised.

With the recent changes to radioactive legislation in the UK i.e. retention of the Radioactive Substances Act 1993 (RSA 93) in Scotland, and the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010 in England and Wales, the role of the Radioactive Waste Adviser (RWA) has been formally adopted. A RPA can only now act as a RWA if they have approval from the UK Environmental Agencies.

Radioactive Waste Adviser (RWA)

A Radioactive Waste Adviser (RWA) is a specialist in radioactive waste disposal and environmental radiation protection. Through assessment (or grandfathering rights), they have demonstrated competence against a Radioactive Waste Adviser syllabus which has been developed by the UK Environmental Agencies.

All users of radioactive material which leads to the actual or potential accumulation or dispose of radioactive waste need to appoint a RWA. Except in rare cases (i.e. where out-of-scope or exemption criteria applies), if you have a permit issued under the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010 or an Authorisation issued under the Radioactive Substances Act 1993, then you must have a RWA in place, and appointed in writing.

Before appointing a RWA you should ensure that they are certificated to act as such. This is a similar process to ensuring that you check the RPA is competent to act in the role (e.g. via a RPA 2000 certificate). In both cases the certification only proves competence – the user / employer is responsible for ensuring that the RPA / RWA is suitable for a specific case.

More information on the role and function of a Radioactive Waste Adviser can be found at the following link: Questions and answers on Radioactive Waste Advisers (SEPA) .



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