The Institute has DoD’s lead on medical and radiobiological matters for radiological-incident response, maintaining a deployable team of subject experts to support actions taken in military and civilian nuclear or radiological incidents. It trains military and civilian health care providers, disaster-preparedness personnel, and operational planners on the effects of ionizing radiation and the logistical and medical responses to exposures; it disseminates data collection instruments to help manage such events; and it develops biodosimetry tools.
Taken individually, none of the facilities, capabilities, assets, and responsibilities just listed is unique; the fact that all of them are under a single roof and managed by the same command structure is what makes AFRRI unique.
AFRRI’s programs and outreach activities provide the nation with important fundamental research, basic knowledge, practical applications, tools, and guidance associated with radiobiology and related matters essential to the operational and medical support of DoD and the Military Services as well as civilian and emergency responders. The Institute’s unique infrastructure, which would be difficult to reproduce elsewhere, positions it to contribute to research on the health effects of low-level ionizing radiation.
Opportunities for Additional or Expanded Roles for AFRRI
As documented in Chapter 4, AFRRI’s research currently focuses on issues related to high-dose radiation exposure. Although some low-dose work is conducted, and other existing initiatives either have low-dose applications or could presumably be extended into this exposure range, the Institute appears likely to remain oriented toward high-dose work for at least the short term because that is where the experience and practical knowledge of its personnel are centered. For these reasons, the committee concludes that it is not appropriate to propose a specific low-dose research agenda as indicated in its statement of task. Performing substantive work in this area will first require changes in institutional culture and a reorienting of staff expertise. Nevertheless, the committee believes that there may be opportunities for AFRRI to contribute to the understanding of human health risks from exposures to low-dose ionizing radiation in a manner that is consistent with its mission that takes advantage of its current expertise, its infrastructure, and its position within the DoD; and that puts it on the pathway toward making greater contributions to this area of research in the future.
The committee’s review of AFRRI’s mission and assets led it to conclude that there are opportunities for an expanded or additional role in the following areas: nuclear- and radiological-emergency response; treatment