Standards, legislation, regulations, policies and procedures may comprise the infrastructure of a radiation protection programme. But even the most carefully designed building remains a hollow shell until people take up residence and begin to marry form and function. Similarly, it takes people to put words into action.
The availability of qualified personnel is vital to developing and sustaining a radiation protection infrastructure. For this reason, the IAEA makes it a top priority to develop the skills, knowledge and expertise of individuals across many disciplines: scientists, legislators and regulators, politicians and administrators, employees in facilities that use radioactive sources and materials, emergency response personnel, etc. Over the course of the Model Project, the IAEA applied various approaches to help strengthen personal capabilities — and thereby enable national capacities.
Building on a long-standing programme developed in Argentina (and delivered in Spanish), the IAEA now offers post-graduate education courses (PGEC) on Radiation Protection and the Safety of Radiation Sources on a regular basis. This PGEC is available in Arabic (Syrian Arab Republic), English (South Africa and Greece), French (Morocco) and Russian (Belarus). Between 1999 and 2004, more than 370 individuals participated in post-graduate courses.
In addition, some 7000 national specialists received radiation protection training through regional and interregional specialized training courses, fellowships, on-the-job training, and scientific visits. By adopting a ‘train-the-trainer’ approach, the IAEA helps to ensure that Member States become self-sufficient in this area as well. Many individuals who participate in training opportunities provided by the technical cooperation programme subsequently pass their new knowledge and expertise on to co-workers and other peers at the national level.
One of the most practical ways the IAEA supports training and education is through the development of manuals, reference materials, and standard packages, which Member States can adapt to suit their particular circumstances and translate into local languages. Recently, various tools have been developed to support distance learning in areas related to radiation protection.