IAEA launches course on managing combined emergencies

23 January 2020

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) recently held its first course on preparedness and response to a nuclear or radiological emergency combined with other emergencies, such as a natural disaster. The course - attended by more than 50 experts from 15 countries - was held in cooperation with Austria's Civil Protection School in Traiskirchen, near Vienna. The participants were mainly nuclear power plant operators, regulators and first responders.

Participants respond to a mock emergency - a lost radioactive source combined with a flood (Image: L Gil/IAEA)

During the week-long course, they analysed real case studies that showed how combined emergencies can amplify the challenges emergency responders have to manage. One was the accident at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant - a nuclear emergency combined with a natural emergency caused by a severe earthquake and tsunami. Course participants were asked to develop a response plan for a simulated emergency with a missing radioactive source, combined with a flood. They were challenged to reach a consensus on the response plan and to think of all stakeholders and institutions required.

"Ensuring effective preparedness and response to a combined emergency requires the development and maintenance of an all-hazards emergency management system," said Phillip Vilar Welter, IAEA Emergency Preparedness Officer who led the training course. "A necessary element for such an all-hazards emergency management system is the establishment of a unified command and control system, which provides a means for effective communications, coordination, cooperation and integration of operating, local, regional and national emergency response organisations."

He said the topic of combined emergencies had become especially relevant and had been prioritised by the international community after the Fukushima Daiichi accident. The IAEA then developed specific guidance that reflects the lessons learned from the accident. The IAEA Safety Standards Series' General Safety Requirements Part 7, Preparedness and Response for a Nuclear or Radiological Emergency, addresses the requirements for preparedness and response to any nuclear or radiological emergency, irrespective of its cause. This includes combined emergencies.

Following this pilot course, the IAEA plans to publish an Emergency Preparedness and Response series publication on nuclear or radiological emergencies combined with other incidents or emergencies.

"Collaborating internationally in the face of transregional and international disasters is key to responding effectively in crisis situations, which is why we look forward to our continued cooperation with the IAEA," said Almira Geosev, course host and member of the Civil Protection Training Unit of the Austrian Federal Ministry of the Interior.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News