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The upholding of what is right, equitable and fair.

  • Distributive justice: fairness in the distribution of advantages and disadvantages among members of a people community.
  • Environmental justice: equitable distribution of environmental risks and benefits; fair and meaningful participation in environmental decision-making; recognition of community ways of life, local knowledge, and cultural difference.
  • Intergenerational justice: fairness towards everyone, with attention also to future generations.
  • Procedural justice: fairness in the rules and procedures in the process of decision making
  • Restorative justice: giving priority to repairing the harm done to victims and communities.
  • Social justice: promoting a just society, by recognition of human rights to equitable treatment and assuring equal access to opportunities. (Adapted from

(Adapted from ICRP Publication 138, 2018)

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One of the four Core Ethical Values underpinning the System of Radiological Protection described in ICRP Publication 138:

Excerpt from ICRP Publication 138 Ethical Foundations of the System of Radiological Protection

3.3. Justice

(51) Justice is usually defined as fairness in the distribution of advantages and disadvantages among groups of people (distributive justice), fairness in compensation for losses (restorative justice), and fairness in the rules and procedures in the processes of decision making (procedural justice). Whereas equity and inequity relate to the state of affairs in distribution of goods, fairness can be used to describe the degree of equity attained in this distribution.

(52) It must be emphasised that the Commission has not referred to justice explicitly in its previous recommendations. However, the idea of limiting individual exposures in order to correct possible disparities in the distribution of individual doses due to radiation among exposed populations appeared as early as ICRP Publication 26. In ICRP Publication 60, the term ‘inequity’ was used for the first time: ‘When the benefits and detriments do not have the same distribution through the population, there is bound to be some inequity. Serious inequity can be avoided by the attention paid to the protection of individuals’.

(53) Any exposure situation, whether natural or man-made, can result in a wide distribution of individual exposures. In addition, the implementation of protective measures can also induce potential distortions in this distribution that may aggravate inequities. In this context, the protection criteria of the system of radiological protection play a dual role.

(54) First, radiological protection criteria aim to reduce inequities in the distribution of individual exposures in situations where some individuals could be subject to much more exposure than others. This restriction of individual exposures is done through the use of dose constraints that apply to planned exposure situations, reference levels that apply to existing and emergency exposure situations, and derived consideration reference levels that apply for the protection of fauna and flora. Dose constraints, reference levels, and derived consideration reference levels are integral parts of the optimisation process, and thus must be chosen depending on the prevailing circumstances by those responsible for protection.

(55) The second role of protection criteria is to ensure that exposures do not exceed the values beyond which the associated risk is considered as not tolerable given a particular context. This is ensured through the application of dose limits recommended by the Commission for the protection of workers and the public in planned exposure situations. As with dose constraints and reference levels, dose limits are tools to restrict individual exposure in order to ensure fairness in the distribution of risks across the exposed group of individuals. However, given the predictable dimension of the planned exposure situations for which the radiation sources are introduced deliberately by human action, the numerical values of dose limits, unlike dose constraints and reference levels, are generally specified in legal terms and have a binding character.

(56) Thus, through the protection criteria, the system of radiological protection aims to ensure that the distribution of individual exposures meets two principles of distributive justice. First, the principle of equity reflects the personal circumstances in which individuals are involved. It is the role of dose constraints and reference levels to reduce the range of exposure to individuals subject to the same exposure situation. Secondly, the principle of equal rights guarantees equal treatment for all individuals belonging to the same category of exposure in planned exposure situations. It is the role of dose limits to ensure that all members of the public, and all occupationally exposed workers, do not exceed the level of risk deemed tolerable by society and recognised in law (Hansson, 2007).

(57) Recognition of the right of citizens to participate in decision-making processes is an important aspect of procedural justice, and linked to stakeholder participation. In environmental justice, this has been ratified in the Århus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making, and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (UNECE, 2001). There are, of course, still challenges in achieving this in practice, and stakeholder participation is discussed in more detail in Section 4.

(58) Intergenerational distributive justice has been addressed by the Commission for the management of radioactive waste with reference to ‘precautionary principle and sustainable development in order to preserve the health and environment of future generations’ (ICRP Publication 122, Para. 15). In ICRP Publication 81, the Commission recommends that ‘individuals and populations in the future should be afforded at least the same level of protection as the current generation’ (ICRP Publication 81, Para. 40). In ICRP Publication 122, the Commission introduces responsibilities towards future generations in terms of providing the means to deal with their protection: ‘. . . the obligations of the present generation towards the future generation are complex, involving, for instance, not only issues of safety and protection but also transfer of knowledge and resources’ (ICRP Publication 122, Para. 17).