Ionactive 2019

It’s been a very busy year at Ionactive, which is why one of our February 2019 goals, ‘to write more blog posts’, was broken early on. Our UK monthly Radiation Protection Supervisor (RPS) training courses have been more or less completely full all year, in a couple of cases requiring us to use the huge Barn Hall at our training venue at Missenden Abbey in order to accommodate all delegates. In the same year, May 2019 marked our last regular training spot in Dubai (UAE) where we delivered Radiation Protection Officer (RPO) training. In discussion with our Dubai training partner ‘RNA Safety International’, we realised it was not financially viable for Ionactive to fly out to UAE and deliver the courses directly due to changes in local market conditions. After nearly 10 years of such work it is a pity – but RNA has not let us down, they provided us with our biggest UAE Qualified Expert contract to date in November 2019 (desk based in the UK). So overall a well satisfying year, but lots more to do in 2020. Here are a few highlights, thoughts and general comments 😊

The new website

In February 2019 we released our new website. Somewhat streamlined compared to our last website (which appeared in 2005), we are really pleased with the feedback and how it has generally performed. We have seen an increase in RPA / RPS training enquiries and would like to think the site user experience has been instrumental in this. There is a lot more to add in the resource hub section and will try and add something new at least monthly. The blog you are reading now will become more active during 2020, as will our twitter feed twitter.com/ionactive.

Cork

During April to June 2019 we were commissioned to carry out the critical examinations of five new linac bunkers at the Cork University Hospital. The new Glandore Centre is a facility containing 5 bunkers (with 7 bunkers available in total). It was a pleasure working with the on-site team and medical physics staff on three two-day visits. A particular requirement was a very extensive radiation survey over all parts of the building – this included neutron surveys at the maze entrance. Each bunker was fitted with an Elekta linac with 10 MV FFF (flattening filter‐free) functionality, and it was interesting to observe how FFF mode at this energy effects potential neutron dose rates and activation of the linac head. The old adage that neutrons are never an issue at 10MV and below is not quite what it seems nowadays!

Radiotherapy Bunkers

During 2019 Ionactive has been involved in several projects supporting the build of linac radiotherapy bunkers. This work has included shielding design calculations for conventional linac accelerators, as well as sites using MRI-Radiotherapy (including the Elekta Unity and the ViewRay MRIdian). Ionactive was involved in the design calculations for the first ViewRay MRIdian system to be installed in the UK (Oxford GenesisCare). It was pleasing to then undertake the radiation shielding survey (together with GC and ViewRay) and determine that the performance of the shielding was very close to the calculations Ioanctive had presented. In this way Ionactive is constantly ‘calibrating’ our bunker design models using real data – this should lead to more cost-effective designs than just relying on modelling alone.

Earlier on in 2019 we were involved in the design and shielding calculations for a veterinary radiotherapy facility. This was quite a challenge as planning requirements meant there was only 80cm between the top of the (unshielded) bunker, and the floor of the level above. The space above the bunker required 100% occupancy and so we worked with a shielding company to ensure that a hybrid shield of lead, steel and concrete would do the job.

UAE / Gulf States

As noted in the introduction we have stepped back from delivering RPO training in Dubai, at least at the typical rate of 3-4 courses a year. However, on the plus side we have worked with our UAE contact ‘RNA Safety International’ to deliver two projects in 2019. Both have been related to the licensing requirements of ionising radiation users in that region. The second of these projects was in support of the x-ray security systems to be employed during the UAE EXPO 2020. We really appreciate this prestigious work and look forward to working with RNA during 2020.

RPS Training

We ran 10 monthly sessions of RPS training at our venue in Missenden Abbey, Buckinghamshire. These two-day residential courses remain popular - looking after the delegates for a full two days in terms of meals, refreshments, en-suite room etc. We continue the approach of mixing all ionising radiation users together on the same course, so we have seen delegates from medicine, industry, security, research, quality assurance and more besides.

In addition to this routine training we have also designed and delivered bespoke RPS courses onsite for numerous clients during the year. These have included bespoke Cyclotron / PET courses, courses for x-ray security engineers, and courses for industrial applications.

Imperial College Reactor Centre (ICRC)

The decommissioning of this iconic facility has continued this year. After the sad passing of Helen Day early in 2019 we took over the licensee RPA and Radioactive Waste Adviser (RWA) roles in support of the decommissioning.

Closely related to ICRC, we also said goodbye to Margaret J Minski who passed away in September 2019. Margaret was a former director and RPA of ICRC and later the boss of Mark Ramsay (and then in later life a friend of the Ramsay family). You can read a separate blog entry here: Margaret J Minski.

2020 - the year ahead

Lots more of the same we hope! Already have a number of projects lined up as well as routine RPA work. Our January 2020 RPS training (27-28th) already has 16 delegates so far. We are back in Cork during February 2020 to critically examine a Brachytherapy facility. In February 2020 we also make our first trip to Slovenia to carry out a full radiation safety assessment of an electron beam facility. We also intend to keep the Ionactive website up to date, and provide a few more blog posts 😊

Happy New Year from Ionactive / Mark Ramsay

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The ultimate paradox, of course, is that even though we're all going to die, we've all got to live in the meantime…

– Brian Cox