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Radiation is everywhere. It’s in the food you eat, the air you breathe and the water you swim in. Rocks, oceans, the sun and stars all give off radiation.


Not only is radiation everywhere, but it varies from place to place.  A lot our natural exposure to radiation comes from radon, a gas which comes out of the ground and becomes part of the air we breathe. This is called background radiation.  People living in granite areas, near mineral sand or in the mountains typically receive more radiation than people from outside these areas.

Source: World Nuclear Association

The distinguishing characteristic of uranium is that it emits low levels of radiation which need to be managed in order to protect uranium workers and the public from any harmful effects.

The principles, regulation and practice of radiation protection in Australia draw on internationally-developed and recognised scientific research and application over a long period.  The uranium industry has thoroughly-developed best-practice systems and processes for minimising radiation hazard and keeping risk as low as reasonably achievable (ALARA).

In Australia, the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) establishes the standards for radiation protection of workers and the public.

ARPANSA’s dose limits, which are internationally developed and applied limits, for ionizing radiation are set out in the table below:

Occupational Public
20 millisieverts (mSv) per year averaged over 5 years, and not more than 50 mSv received in any one year. 1 millisievert in a year

Companies which operate uranium facilities are legally accountable for ensuring radiation risk is managed to ensure workers, the public and the environment are protected from harm.

The operational performance of Australia’s uranium mines provides evidence of the industry’s record of radiation protection performance.

Olympic Dam

Actual occupational doses received

mSv 2012-13 2013-14
Avg dose to all mine workers 1.7 1.5
Avg dose for full-time workers 2.2 2.0
Avg dose for part-time workers 0.4 0.3
Maximum individual dose 8.2 6.4

Source: BHP Billiton Olympic Dam, Annual Radiation Protection Reports

Doses received by members of the public living at

mSv 2012-13 2013-14
Roxby Downs 0.03 0.03
Olympic Dam Village 0.03 0.02

Source: BHP Billiton Olympic Dam, Annual Radiation Protection Reports


Actual occupational doses received

mSv Q1-Q3 2012 Q1-Q3 2013 Q1-Q3 2014
Designated workers 1.2 1.2 0.4
Maximum individual dose to a designated worker 3.92 3.92 1.4
Non-Designated workers 0.84 0.84 0.2
Maximum individual dose to a non-designated worker NA NA 0.6

Source: ERA Annual Reports

The potential exposures to Jabiru residents from the Ranger mine activities are also monitored throughout the year and are calculated annually. The resulting contribution from Ranger mine remains very low in comparison to both the public dose limit and the natural background radiation level. Historically the contribution from Ranger mine has been, on average, approximately 0.02 mSv (or 2 per cent) of the 1.0 mSv member of public dose limit and less than 1 per cent of the natural background in Australia of 2 – 3 mSv, (which varies according to location).

Source: ERA Annual Report 2014


Heathgate Resources’ 2012 annual reporting against its Beverley uranium mine Radiation Management Plan reports that:

Doses to employees at the Beverley Site remained consistently low and below all applicable limits’.

The average dose of 0.32 mSv was less than the annual effective dose limit of 1 mSv to members of the public as stipulated in the South Australian Radiation Protection and Control (Ionising Radiation) Regulations 2000.  The maximum dose for the year was 6.17 mSv, also well below the employee dose limits of 20 mSv/yr averaged over 5 years or 50 mSv/yr in any one year.’

The results of the Beverley Uranium Mine Radiation Monitoring Program have shown that no employee was exposed to unacceptable levels of radiation during 2012.

Doses received by employees and contractors working at the Beverley site remain well below all statutory limits. The Radiation Management Plan and associated site procedures like the Radiation Work Permit system have also ensured doses have remained As Low As Reasonably Achievable.’


The Australian uranium industry has been closely involved with the establishment of a national database to record career radiation dose histories of all Australian uranium mine workers, no matter where they work or live.

The register has been operating since July 2010 and holds career dose data for over 30,000 people who have worked in the uranium industry. 

The average and maximum annual effective doses to Australian uranium industry workers continue to exhibit an overall downward trend for the period 1 January 2004 to 31 December 2014. The chart below clearly demonstrates that average doses to workers remain consistently low despite the overall workforce increasing in number during that period. Both average and maximum doses in 2014 were 49% lower than the previous year, despite an increase in workforce of 24% during that period.

Source: ARPANSA, ANRDR in Review, July 2015


The ‘Radiation Workers’ Handbook: Radiation Control in the Mining Industry’ has been written about the hazard of radiation and its controls. Other hazards have not been discussed in detail. Safety manuals are available at mines and mills which deal specifically with other hazards. Radiation has been given a booklet of its own, not because is the greater hazard, but because it is invisible and not widely understood.

This Handbook describes how we monitor and manage radiation in the mining and processing of radioactive ores, including uranium, mineral sands and rare earths. The handbook is a guide only and complements each employer’s Radiation Management Plan and other rules and practices on radiation safety.

CLICK HERE to download a copy of the ‘Radiation Workers’ Handbook’


This document sets the fundamental principles for radiation protection and outlines the fundamental radiation protection, safety and security objectives. They are written in an explanatory and non-regulatory style and describe the basic concepts and objectives of international best practice.

Download ARPANSA’s Fundamentals – Protection Against Ionising Radiation.