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Protection of People

The policy of the U.S. Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program is to reduce personnel exposure to ionizing radiation associated with naval nuclear propulsion plants to the lowest level reasonably achievable. In carrying out this policy, the Program has consistently maintained personnel radiation exposure standards more stringent than those in the civilian nuclear power industry or in other government nuclear programs.

Nuclear-powered submarine, VIRGINIA, returning to port following her highly succThe policy of the U.S. Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program is to reduce personnel exposure to ionizing radiation associated with naval nuclear propulsion plants to the lowest level reasonably achievable.  In carrying out this policy, the Program has consistently maintained personnel radiation exposure standards more stringent than those in the civilian nuclear power industry or in other government nuclear programs.

No civilian or military personnel in the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program have ever exceeded the federal lifetime radiation exposure limit or the federal annual limit in effect at the time.  Since 1968, no personnel have exceeded 5 rem per year, which was the Program’s self-imposed limit until it became the federal limit in 1994.  In recent years, the average annual radiation exposure for operators has dropped to about one-tenth of the average annual exposure a member of the American public receives from natural background radiation and medical sources.  In 1987, the Yale University School of Medicine conducted an independent study of about 76,000 personnel assigned to submarine duty.  In 1991, Johns Hopkins University conducted an independent study of over 70,000 shipyard personnel assigned to work on nuclear-powered ships.  Neither study showed any cancer risks linked to radiation exposure.

The principles of personal responsibility, technical knowledge, rigorous training, and auditing have been applied to achieve the Program’s strong nuclear safety record.  These same principles are also applied to Occupational Safety, Health, and Occupational Medical (OSHOM) programs.  Workers are provided comprehensive safety and health training, carefully engineered procedures, close supervision, and work-team backup.  Inspection, oversight, and feedback mechanisms are designed to provide continual improvement.  The Program’s injury and illness incidence rates and lost workdays rates are about one-third of these rates for general industry.