This paper provides an overview of results achieved through a whole set of ALARA investigations at the Goesgen Nuclear Power Plant. Doses to workers, the public and the environment have significantly dropped in recent years. Even the doses to the most exposed workers at the plant are not bigger than doses from natural background radiation. Recent reviews of epidemiological data call attention to the importance of recognizing that the risk of cancer at low doses is small and might contribute only a very small, non-detectable fraction to an individual’s overall risk. Based on the global cultural change on how society is facing any kind of risk, the initial ALARA philosophy is moving more and more to a continuing expectation that optimization is equivalent to reduction. This philosophy change is even more pronounced in the light of the ongoing discussions about the effects of low dose radiation. Multiple conservatisms in dose models and dose calculations will lead to an imbalance between radiation risks and benefits. Overweighting radiation risks from low doses causes anxiety among the public and unnecessary economic burden to nuclear facilities. In light of pressing global issues (i.e. climate change), a discussion about the meaning of the ‘R’ in ALARA is recommended.© 2021 Society for Radiological Protection. Published on behalf of SRP by IOP Publishing Limited. All rights reserved.