“We must stress the importance of the safe use of nuclear power and ionizing radiations”
We spoke with Ricardo Torres Cabrera, president of the Spanish Society for Radiological Protection (SEPR). A doctor in Physical Science specializing in hospital radiophysics, he is head of the Radiophysics and Radiological Protection department at the two hospitals in Valladolid.
He is passionate about his work and fully aware of the great responsibility and transcendence of his profession. He assures that “nowadays no one would understand modern medicine without radiological tests and without oncological treatment with ionizing radiations”. Torres encourages training in radiological protection for different medical specialists.
He has a positive message on the “promising” future of the use of nuclear technology in medical applications, although, he indicates, “there is still a significant lack of knowledge in this respect among a large part of the population. The same can be said about nuclear power”.
"No one understands current medicine without radiological tests or without oncological treatments with ionizing radiations
Could you tell us about the association, its areas of interest and the main activities you develop at the Spanish Society for Radiological Protection?
SEPR is a scientific and technical organization whose main focus is to fill space for dialogue, information and communication and work towards the progress of radiological protection in our country. Since its foundation forty years ago, its goal is to bring together all the professionals in the field of radiological protection from the different activity sectors where ionizing and non-ionizing radiations are used.
SEPR is a very active professional association that currently represents over 600 members. We organize congresses, courses and various conferences, on specific and current topics of interest, for professionals in radiological protection. I would also like to highlight SEPR’s significant international projection.
SEPR is a scientific and technical organization born 40 years ago to fill a space of dialogue, information and communication.
You have been in SEPR for a long time, first as chairperson and now as president. How has this association evolved over the past few years?
Many years have passed since I was chairperson at SEPR’s Management board, in 2006. This allowed me to gain deeper knowledge of this institution. Looking back one can see the road traveled by SEPR and its evolution these past years, which has gone hand-in-hand with changes in society. The use of ionizing and non-ionizing radiations in various professional applications and daily life is a phenomenon that continues to grow in present times along with technical and scientific progress, both of which are crucial to increase our knowledge. As a scientific society, SEPR participates in these developments and contributes to the processes of knowledge on the effect of radiations, which still present uncertainties.
We make all the latest information available to our members, adapted to their professional needs. Additionally, decision-making organizations, users of radiation and the public at large are also the object of our attention. With this in mind we have the proper interaction lines in place to transmit, in a rigorous and objective way, the risks linked to the use of these radiations and the best techniques used for protection.
We need to send our message across to the scientific community as well as to the decision-making organizations
What is a typical day in radiophysics and radiological service, like the organization you lead?
The scope of action in radiophysics and radiological protection service is set within a framework of specialized medical care and includes the design of medical treatment with individually personalized ionizing radiations, the physical and clinical dosimetry of the radiations used in the clinical diagnostics and therapy procedures, the design. and implementation of quality control programs for equipment in order to evaluate and analyze the physical parameters that have an impact on the patients’ radiological safety, and the radiological protection of everyone implied. Our activity is divided into various fields, from simple assistance (especially in radiotherapy and nuclear medicine) to consulting and surveillance, evaluating and analyzing the physical parameters that affect the radiological safety of patients.
As a radiological protection service authorized by the Nuclear Safety Council (CSN), we participate in the design of sites and acquisition processes, definition of technical specifications, acceptance tests and quality control tests of the medical-radiological equipment. Regarding radiological protection, we also cooperate in training medical professionals and other groups related to the use of ionizing radiations. Of course, our competences also include the radiological protection of workers that are exposed in their profession and of the public at large.
What can you tell us about the current state of radiological protection and radiodiagnostics in Spain? What evolution and improvements have there been?
I honestly believe that Spain is one of the countries where radiological protection is very well established. The regulation is very complete and well developed and there are excellent professionals, some at the highest level in international organizations, involved in this discipline. The important work done by CSN, radiological protection services and technical units as well as scientific societies allows us to enjoy good health in radiological protection at the moment.
Radiological protection is very well established in Spain, with a complete and developed set of regulations as well as excellent professionals.
As a doctor in Physical Science and specialist in Hospital Radiophysics, what is the current importance and future projection you see for the use of nuclear technologies in medical applications?
Many of the treatments currently applied in brachytherapy or nuclear medicine use radioactive isotopes obtained from nuclear reactors. In the past few years we also witnessed an important development in this area with the incorporation of new radionuclides that make it possible to improve treatment for different oncological processes as well as many others currently being researched.
However, one of the concerns in our sector is the fact that currently there are very few nuclear reactors in the world dedicated to producing radiopharmaceuticals for the medical area. This is probably a consequence of the population’s mostly negative opinion regarding the use of nuclear power.
Do you believe that the work of dissemination like what you do at SEPR is effective in spreading knowledge on radiological protection to the general public? How can it be improved?
At SEPR we are fully convinced of the importance of improving public knowledge on radiological protection. Radiations have multiple applications that not only improve people’s health but also their living conditions. However, using them inappropriately or without radiological protection measures can cause harm to people and the environment. Additionally, the periodical publication of reports or news increases the population’s interest on this question. I sincerely believe that all the initiatives focused on improving the population’s knowledge of radiological protection are of fundamental importance to help society have trust in ionizing and non-ionizing radiations.
Radiations have multiple applications that improve people’s health as well as their living conditions
Would you like to add anything or share any of your personal interests with us?
I would like to thank Foro Nuclear for allowing me to spread knowledge on SEPR’s current activities. From our respective positions, we at SERP and Foro Nuclear must be capable of convey to the population the importance of safety regarding nuclear power and ionizing radiations in the technological development of the various areas in our society. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak as a hospital radiophysicist, a medical specialty that is gaining growing importance.
We must be able to convey to the population the importance safety in the use of nuclear power and ionizing radiations in the technological development of society.
I do not want to sign off without thanking all the SEPR members. They enjoy their profession, they put all their passion into what they do and spread their enthusiasm to those around them.