Elaine Doorly, Radiological Protection Officer

Today it’s 9am when I arrive at my office in Trinity College where I have been working on a part time basis for just over 13 years as the College Radiological Protection Officer (RPO). 

My chief role is to oversee the use of ionising radiation in the College and ensure that such work is undertaken in a safe manner. Just have time to check my emails before heading to a meeting regarding plans for a new building which will contain X-ray equipment and advise on compliance with regulatory requirements.

11.00am: Time for a quick coffee before heading over to the Biochemistry School to monitor a batch of radioactive waste and sign clearance forms for disposal. 

One of the best parts of my work is that many staff and postgraduate students work with sources of ionising radiation so my work brings me into contact with people right across the university involved in areas as diverse as medical equipment and pharmaceuticals to geological specimens such as radioactive ores.

At 12.30pm I finish up at Biochemistry and make my way to the Physics School to oversee the installation of a new sealed radioactive Cobalt 57 source. I need to monitor the radiation dose rate, check the shielding and perform a leak test on the source.

By 2.30pm, having squeezed in a quick lunch, I’m on my way to a laboratory where an unknown and unlabelled flask of liquid has been found in a fridge with a radiation trefoil sticker on it. I have this liquid analysed to determine if any radionuclide is present, establish the activity levels and advise on its safe disposal.

3.30pm – I’m back in the office, preparing for tomorrow’s College Radiological Safety Committee meeting. 

Some of the issues, which are coming up, include the safety aspects of liquid sources of radiation generally used as tracers or markers in experimental procedures. 

In addition we will be considering ‘Sealed sources’, i.e. solid, encapsulated, mainly gamma sources of radiation used to irradiate other materials, and ‘X-ray equipment’ which range from bone densitometers for assessing diseases such as osteoporosis to X-ray diffraction equipment for analysis of materials.

4.00pm I meet an academic staff member regarding a new project involving the importation and use of uranium and thorium compounds. 

I assess his laboratory facilities and enquire about activity levels to ensure that regulatory requirements can be complied with. I write a risk assessment and justification case for submission to the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland.

5.15pm Phew – time to get home! Apart from my work as College RPO for Trinity College, I am also a Chartered Radiation Protection Professional with my own private business ‘Radiation Safety Ireland’ providing consultancy, training and advice services to industry. 

On the train I use this time to answer an e-mail enquiry from one of my clients sorting out a site visit to a pharmaceutical plant later this week. 

My clients are many and varied and include major pharmaceutical companies, research and education facilities, gamma irradiator facilities, government agencies and waste management companies throughout Ireland.

There being no ‘typical day’ my work can vary from contributing to EU platforms on radiological protection in foreign countries to less glamorous days out in the wind and rain monitoring radioactive waste in Ireland, but without a doubt there has rarely been a dull moment.

Elaine Doorly

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