Experts assess the implementation of international conventions on nuclear emergency response – World
Nayana Jayarajan, IAEA Department of Nuclear Safety and Security
A member of the IAEA Incident and Emergency System uses the International Radiation Monitoring Information System (IRMIS) during a Convex3 exercise in Vienna, Austria. (Photo: N. Jayarajan/IAEA)
Countries need to work closely together in the event of a nuclear emergency, which is why sharing experiences and improving emergency preparedness are key tasks arising from the IAEA’s mandate. Those responsible for emergency preparedness at the national level – officially called Competent Authorities – met in Vienna last week at the 11th Meeting of Representatives of Competent Authorities identified under the Convention on Early Notification and the Assistance Convention, and discussed ways to ensure that the necessary expertise, services and equipment are readily available upon request of any government in the event of a nuclear or radiological emergency.
In his speech, the Director General of the IAEA, Rafael Mariano Grossi, spoke about the role of the two conventions with regard to nuclear installations in Ukraine. “All we have done to help Ukraine maintain nuclear safety and security and an adequate level of safeguards; everything we did to inform the whole world of the situation during this first military conflict which took place in the immediate vicinity of a major nuclear program, we did it through the framework that many of have built and improved on you over the years leading up to today…this frame is tested like never before,” he said.
A robust and integrated international framework for nuclear emergency notification and assistance is essential to protect people and the environment from the harmful effects of ionizing radiation, said the chair of the meeting, Faizan Mansoor, head of the Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority. “This meeting is essential, as it brings together the world’s experts in nuclear emergency preparedness and response to determine whether our arrangements remain effective when emergencies arise under increasingly complex conditions,” he said.
Competent authorities are the entities designated by their governments to carry out specific tasks with respect to the transmission and reception of information relating to nuclear and radiological emergencies under these conventions. They meet every two years to assess and strengthen the implementation of the Early Notification Convention and the Assistance Convention. These two conventions were concluded in 1986, in the aftermath of the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, and establish the international framework for the exchange of information and the rapid provision of assistance in the event of a nuclear or radiological emergency. , in order to minimize the consequences.
“Radiation knows no borders, and countries must work together quickly to prevent people from being harmed from a cross-border radioactive release,” said Carlos Torres Vidal, director of the Incident and Emergencies Center of the IAEA.
Prepare to respond to a rare event
The IAEA has established a number of platforms and mechanisms, such as the Unified Incident and Emergency Information Exchange System (USIE), the International Radiation Monitoring Information System (IRMIS ) and assessment and prognosis tools and the Response and Assistance Network to help countries work with each other, as well as with the IAEA and other international organizations, during a response . For example, the USIE is a secure information-sharing platform that enables countries to fulfill their obligations under the Early Notification Convention; the same function is performed for the Assistance Convention through the Response and Assistance Network, or RANET, which allows countries to offer, and receive, assistance and expertise; and IRMIS collects and maps large amounts of environmental radiation monitoring data during nuclear or radiological emergencies.
The IAEA helps countries put in place strong preparedness mechanisms, developing safety guides and publications, and providing training and other capacity-building initiatives.
Although most people associate nuclear emergencies with accidents at nuclear power plants, such as those at Chernobyl (1986) and Fukushima Daiichi (2011), such events are actually very rare. At the same time, the Response and Assistance Network has been mobilized on several occasions over the past decade to respond to countries facing the consequences of much more common radiological emergencies, such as the accidental exposure of workers to dangerous levels of radiation from contact with radiation sources. used in industry or medicine.
“The past two years have demonstrated that emergencies come in many forms such as earthquakes, floods and fires, and that we need to pay more attention than ever to our motto: Prepare. Answer. Improve,” said Lydie Evrard, Deputy Managing Director. and Head of Department of Nuclear Safety and Security.