The association HERCA (Heads of European Radiological Protection Competent Authorities was created on the initiative of ASN in 2007. HERCA proposes concrete elements promoting the harmonisation of regulations and practices. HERCA has thus become a major actor of radiation protection in Europe.
The creation context
The European regulations on radiation protection stem from a regulatory base common to the states of the European Union; they also stem from each state's interpretation of the European rules and the application of these rules to varying extents in the national law of each state. The transposition of the community rules for radiation protection by the States is consequently heterogeneous within the European Union; in some cases significant differences are observed between the European rule and that adopted by national administrations. This concerns, for example, the definition of measures to protect the general public in the event of a nuclear accident, which differ from one neighbouring country to the next, or the measures to protect itinerant workers, or the criteria for authorising the release of patients following therapy with iodine 131.
ASN is convinced that progress in European harmonisation requires the organising of close discussions between the heads of the European radiation protection regulation authorities, in the same way as the discussions that predominate in the area of nuclear safety. In 2007, following the example of WENRA, ASN was the first mover in the creation of HERCA.
The aim of the association is to develop a common approach to radiation protection within Europe, to harmonise practices and regulations between the States in order to contribute to a high level of radiation protection in the countries of the European Union.
51 Authorities competent in radiation protection from 31 European countries , including the 28 countries of the European Union, are members of HERCA. HERCA works with the European Commission on the harmonisation of radiation protection practices.
The association is underpinned by a "Board of Heads" of the radiation protection authorities, the supreme decision-making body in which the European Commission participates as a "privileged observer". HERCA also functions through thematic working groups (WG) made up of technical supervisors and high-level experts. ASN is represented on this Board by the Chairman of ASN, deputised by a commissioner and the director of ionising radiation and health.
Ongoing working groups
At present 5 groups are working on the following themes:
- Outside workers and dosimetric passport
- Justification and optimisation of the use of sources in non-medical fields
- Medical applications
- Preparedness for and management of emergency situations
- Veterinary applications
ASN is represented in all the working groups and also provides the secretariat of the medical applications working group. ASN also ensures the general secretariat of the association.
Completed and ongoing projects
To date, several projects have been approved by HERCA:
In the medical field:
- a statement on the use of full-body scanners in airports;
- a document that lists the criteria for releasing patients having received a treatment with iodine 131 and a model of a European card to be used by patients having undergone iodine 131 therapy;
- a review of the recommendations on the involvement of stakeholders in medical practices that use ionising radiation;
- an agreement with the manufacturers of medical scanners to work on reducing doses delivered to patients, which is currently being monitored;
- a joint statement on the practice of individual "screening".
In the field of radiological emergency preparedness
- document on emergency preparedness on practical proposals for further harmonisation of the reactions in European countries to any distant nuclear or radiological
- the principles of an HERCA approach in emergencies (earlier "top-down" approach) based on the recognition of the "national" differences, the sharing of resources, confidence and the alignment of decisions between the different countries; a Road Map for the implementation of such approach in under development in collaboration with WENRA.
- a practical guide in the field of emergency situation preparedness on the practicability of the protection actions (sheltering, evacuation, ingestion of stable iodine tablets);
- a joint statement following the Fukushima accident reaffirming in particular the strong need for a common understanding and approach in the field of emergency planning in Europe and the need to draw the short- and long-term lessons from this accident.
In other fields
- a dosimetric passport model, the content of which has been integrated in the proposed new Euratom European Directive setting out the basic standards for health protection against the dangers arising from exposure ionising radiation.
- a provisional statement in favour of European-wide harmonisation of the radiation protection regulations relative to lamps containing small quantities of radioactive substances.
External relations and stakeholder involvement
HERCA has developed numerous relations with other radiation protection stakeholders, formalised to varying degrees. It has signed a collaboration agreement with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is the US equivalent of the French ANSM (National Agency for Medicines and Health Products Safety), it has a special status for relations with the US National Council of Radiation Protection and measurements (NCRP) and an Spacial Liaison Organisation status with the ICRP. Representatives of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) participate in the activities of the medical working group as observers. Several associations from the medical field in Europe (representing radiologists, technologists, nuclear technicians et physicians, medical physicists, scanner manufacturers, etc.) are associated with the initiatives of this working group. In 2012 collaboration in common areas was initiated with the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA), as well as some thirty other stakeholders.
 This is because in certain countries, oversight of radiation protection is ensured by several authorities.
 The countries in question are Iceland, Switzerland and Norway.
 These lessons will be taken into account in the future work of HERCA in this area.In this respect, the "Emergency situation preparedness and management" working group has been given a new mandate that widens its scope.It now addresses not only accidents occurring in Europe but it will also define a common approach in the national management of nuclear emergencies occurring in distant locations.