United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

Value of Public Health and Safety Actions and Radiation Dose Avoided (NUREG/CR-6212, BNL-NUREG-52413)

On this page:

Download complete document

Publication Information

Manuscript Completed: April 1994
Date Published: May 1994

Prepared by:
J.W. Baum

Brookhaven National Laboratory
Upton, NY 11973-5000

A.K. Roecklein, NRC Project Manager
B.J. Richter, NRC Technical Monitor

Prepared for:
Division of Regulatory Applications
Office of Nuclear Regulatory Research
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Washington, DC 20555-0001

NRC Job Code A3259

Availability Notice


The recent literature was reviewed for information on the cost per life saved in various health and safety activities, and the related value of dose avoided in radiation protection. In addition, agencies and organizations in several countries were contacted for information on the values being used or considered.

As expected, there is a wide range of values, reflecting the fact that the cost effectiveness of the safety options varies greatly depending on the nature of the risk. Another factor that affects costs is the need to achieve a safe environment (working or public) at escalating costs as safe limits are approached. This problem relates to societies', the courts', and regulators' preferences for avoiding inequitable distribution of risks; that is, no one individual should be expected to bear an unfair or excessive share of the risk. This preference leads to regulations that limit average individual risk to about 10-2 to 10-3 per lifetime in occupational exposures, and 10-3 to 10-6 in public exposures. The acceptable individual risk in the latter range depends on the number of individuals likely to be exposed.

The values judged best to reflect the willingness of society to pay for the avoidance or reduction of risk were deduced from studies of costs of health care, transportation safety, consumer product safety, government agency actions, wage-risk compensation, consumer behavior (market) studies, and willingness-to-pay surveys. The results ranged from $1,400,000 to $2,700,000 per life saved. Applying the mean of these values ($2,100,000) and the latest risk per unit dose coefficients used by the ICRP (1991), which take into account risks to the general public, including genetic effects and non-fatal cancers, yields a value of dose avoided of $750 to $1,500 per person-cSv for public exposures. The lower value applies if adjustments are made for years of life lost per fatality. A nominal value of $1,000 per person-cSv seems appropriate in light of the many uncertainties involved in deducing these values.

These values are consistent with values recommended by several European countries for individual doses in the region of 1 mSv/y (100 mrem/y). Below this dose rate, most countries have values a factor of 7 to 10 lower, based on the assumption that society is less concerned with fatality risks below about 10 -4 /y.

Page Last Reviewed/Updated Friday, August 09, 2013