IAEA holds exercise to test international capabilities for assistance in the event of nuclear or radiological emergencies

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By Sinead Harvey, IAEA Department of Nuclear Safety and Security

The IAEA Incident and Emergency Centre tested international emergency preparedness and response capabilities with 39 Member States and 3 international organizations over three days in March 2019.

The exercise is held once a year as part of an annual schedule of exercises and tests Member States’ and international organizations’ procedures to request or offer international assistance in the event of a nuclear or radiological emergency. The organizers sent the authorities at Member States participating in the exercise a set of scenarios of nuclear or radiological emergencies.

“The exercise started on Tuesday 26 March with the first exercise trigger message,” said Kilian Smith, IAEA Response and Assistance Network (RANET) Officer. “From this point, participants practiced their emergency response procedures, first notifying the IAEA of a simulated emergency situation. Then participants from some Member States simulated requests for international assistance, while exercise participants from other Member States simulated offers to address the requested assistance. The exercise engages responders through emergency scenarios and identifies opportunities to improve their national emergency response procedures.”

Over this three-day exercise 17 separate emergency scenarios were created for each of the 17 Member States, which then requested emergency assistance. Each simulated assistance request sought complex and specialized support that had to be matched with simulated offers from other Member States. 

Member States, international organizations and the IAEA’s Secretariat worked to deliver the most effective assistance, as swiftly as possible to emergency scenarios taking place across the globe. In response to requests for assistance, the IAEA becomes the focal point to facilitate and coordinate international assistance. In this exercise, 22 Member States and 3 international organizations responded to the requests, developed logistics to offer assistance and exchanged detailed assistance plans outlining their capabilities, including radiation survey, sampling and analysis, specialized monitoring and detection equipment, helicopters and medical support.

These exercises can be challenging as they necessitate the creation and coordination of different accident scenarios for the participating Member State,” said Mr Smith. “15 responders within the IAEA Incident and Emergency System (IES) worked over the three days and nights to test our own capabilities effectively.”

The procedures being tested are set out in the newly revised IAEA Response and Assistance Network manual (EPR-RANET 2018)

RANET currently has 34 Member States. An IAEA RANET Capacity Building Centre, designated in the Fukushima Prefecture in Japan, will host a similar exercise in June 2019. This exercise will test procedures for a RANET’s Joint Assistance Team that would be launched upon the request of a Member State.

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