IAEA team lauds UAE emergency preparedness

02 April 2015

A team of international experts has praised emergency preparedness and response arrangements for the United Arab Emirates' (UAE) first nuclear power plant.

The IAEA emergency preparedness review service (EPREV) team, led by Raoul Awad of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), carried out its 11-day mission at the invitation of the UAE government. The team, which included experts from Brazil, Canada, France, Morocco, the USA and the IAEA itself, assessed the UAE's arrangements and preparations to respond to nuclear and radiological emergencies at the Barakah plant, currently under construction.

"The UAE has built its nuclear emergency preparedness and response program in an effective way on the basis of an already strong national infrastructure for crisis and emergency management," Awad said at the mission's closing meeting on 31 March. He described the partnership between the UAE's various relevant bodies - the National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority, the Ministry of Interior, the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation and the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) - as key to the program's successes so far.

The clear definition of roles and responsibilities of the organizations that would manage nuclear emergencies, and significant progress in the development of facilities and capabilities to manage the medical response, were highlighted as particular strengths in the UAE's program.

The UAE also demonstrated excellence in two areas, which the EPREV team has directed are to be shared with the international emergency preparedness and response community. Firstly, the co-location in Al Ruwais of the emergency operations centres for the management of onsite and offsite response, which the team described as a "unique feature of the UAE nuclear emergency management framework" which could greatly enhance the effectiveness of the cooperation between the operator and the offsite emergency management authorities.

Secondly, as a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council's Regional Nuclear and Radiological Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan, the UAE can achieve a high degree of harmonization and coordination with its neighbours during a nuclear emergency. This, according to the EPREV team, is another important element for the success of global emergency response.

The review team also highlighted several areas where further progress is necessary, including further clarification on decisions about how best to protect the public during an emergency; greater consistency on public information arrangements for a nuclear emergency; ensuring that sufficient qualified personnel are available across all emergency response organizations for a prolonged response to protect the public; and the need to ensure that current efforts to complete and test plans, facilities, tools and systems are maintained.

The EPREV team noted the "excellent" cooperation of all organisations involved in the mission, and highlighted the commitment to excellence displayed by all parties.

"By requesting this mission, the UAE demonstrated its dedication to continuous improvement in nuclear safety," said Denis Flory, IAEA deputy director general and head of the agency's Department of Nuclear Safety and Security.

Hamad Alkaabi, the UAE's permanent representative to the IAEA, said that the country was committed to a nuclear energy programme providing the "highest possible" standards of proection to both people and environment. "This IAEA mission constructively boosts our efforts to ensure that we meet those standards," he said.

EPREV missions are one of several peer review missions offered by the IAEA to strengthen nuclear safety in IAEA member states, foucsing on the arrangements and capabilities to prepare for and respond to nuclear and radiological emergencies based on the IAEA safety standards in nuclear and radiological emergency preparedness and response.

ENEC recently applied for an operating licence for the first unit at Barakah, which is more than 69% complete and expected to start up in 2017. Two further units are under construction at the site, which will ultimately house four Korean-designed APR1400 units.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News