France looks deeper at post-accident management

23 November 2012

France has published the basic elements of a national doctrine to help the government develop a strategy to address potential health, social and economic impacts in the unlikely event of a serious nuclear accident.

The elements of the doctrine are divided into three "inseparable" objectives: protecting the population against harmful effects of ionizing radiation; providing support to people affected by the consequences of a nuclear accident; and, recovering the economic and social development of areas affected. The elements were established considering nuclear accidents involving the short-term (less than 24 hours) release of radioactive material. They consider the entire post-accident phase: the first few days after the accident; the first month (the so-called transition period); and the few first years after the accident (the long-term period).

Under a mandate issued by an interministerial directive, France's Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN), set up a steering committee in 2005 to establish a doctrine for post-accident management in case of contamination arising from releases from a nuclear facility. Various stakeholders participated in the steering committee, including the main government departments concerned, expert bodies such as the Institute for Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN) and the Institute for Public Health Surveillance (InVS). It is included associations, politicians and nuclear facility operators. International expertise, especially from countries affected by the Chernobyl accident, was also sought in compiling the doctrine.

ASN said that the publication of the first elements of the national doctrine is an important step in preparing for management of the post-accident phase of a nuclear accident. However, it stressed that the doctrine must go further and deeper to allow ownership by policy makers and stakeholders, particularly at the regional level where local authorities will be the most concerned.

French plans for post-accident management currently call for an evacuation of the area within a 5 km radius of a nuclear facility and that people could be forced to remain indoors within a 10 km radius. However, the ASN says that an accident beyond design could happen and that areas of double or even triple these should be included in such plans. However, it noted that this would depend on the nature of the accident and weather conditions, which can only be assessed when it occurs.

The ASN has proposed that the government continues to provide assistance to the authorities in preparing for post-accident management and to update the basic elements of the national doctrine, particularly taking into account lessons learned from the Fukushima accident in Japan.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News