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Following the decision of the Hungarian Government taken in 1954, the Institute was founded by the Ministry of Health under the name Central Research Institute for Radiobiology on January 1, 1957. Its first director was Dr. Vilmos Várterész. The Government set as a basic task for the Institute to "study the radiation-induced diseases and their healing that could arise in some persons or groups of people in the course of peaceful utilisation of nuclear energy or its use for military purposes, and through an extensive application of radioactive isotopes".
By virtue of the Government decision, in honour of the Nobel-prize scientist and peace fighter, the Minister of Health renamed the Institute to "Frédéric Joliot-Curie" Central Research Institute for Radiobiology as of January 1, l959.
As a consequence of changes in international and domestic circumstances, and mainly the launch of the domestic nuclear energy programme, the sphere of tasks of the Institute continued to expand. First with the national coordination and implementation of radiohygiene research and practical activities, including workplace and environmental radiohygiene sectors, and later by research and development of radioactive therapeutic preparations. In the interests of performing the newer tasks and clarifying the profile of public health institutes, Department of Radiation Hygiene of the National Institute for Occupational Medicine, the Radiation Physics Department of National Institute of Roentgen and Radiation Physics and the Radiation Hygiene Laboratory of the National Institute of Public Health were attached to the Institute. The Institute thus expanded was renamed by the Minister of Health on January 1, 1963 as "Frédéric Joliot-Curie" National Research Institute for Radiobiology and Radiohygiene (NRIRR).
The Institute has become the professional centre of the country for radiation health. It was directed by Tibor Predmerszky, MD, PhD in 1972-74. In line with the new tasks, the third director of the Institute László B. Sztanyik, MD, PhD, Director General, reorganised the Institute in l974, establishing three professional departments: the Department of Radiation Biology, Department of Radiation Hygiene, and the Department of Application of Radiation and Isotopes. From the middle of the eighties an autonomous Laboratory of Non-ionizing Radiations has been functioning as a fourth unit. In 1999 it became the 4th department of the Institute.
On February 1, 1984 the Postgraduate Medical School has established the Chair of Radiation Hygiene at the basis of the Institute. Its first leader was Prof. Dr. L. B. Sztanyik, followed by Prof. Dr. G. J. Köteles since June 1995.
NRIRR headed by Prof. György Köteles, MD, DSc, Director, became a part of the "Fodor József" National Centre for Public Health, (NCPH) headed by Prof. György Ungváry, MD, DSc, Director General on January 1, 1998. At that time the Accredited Radiohygiene Laboratory has been established in NRIRR by the National Accreditation Council. It includes both Departments of Radiohygiene and it involves all methods used by their staff members to assess the radiation exposure levels and conditions at the workplaces and in the environment. The DG of NCPH has nominated Sándor Pellet, MD, PhD as Acting Director of NRIRR on September 1, 2004.
NRIRR has been designated by the World Health Organization in October 2004 as a WHO Collaborating Centre for Radiation Emergency Medical Preparedness and Radiation Health. Activities of NRIRR related to its tasks within the WHO Radiation Emergency Medical Preparedness and Assistance Network (WHO/REMPAN) are headed by Dr. István Turai, Assoc.Prof. of Radiation Medicine, Senior Counsellor of the Directorate of NRIRR.
At the end of 2006 NCPH was terminated. From January 1, 20 NRIRR as institution of National Public Health and Medical Officers Service, received partial legal and financial autonomy. Dr. Ferenc Falus, the Chief Medical Officer of Hungary has designated István Turai MD, PhD, MPHM as Acting Director General of NRIRR, since May 1, 2007.