Be Prepared

Published: 28 October 2013

Despite thorough efforts to prevent nuclear  and radiological emergencies, we have to live with the fact that they can happen. The IAEA has published advice in the form of safety standards and guidance - developed in cooperation with the Agency's 159 Member States - that aim to prevent accidents but also outline how to best prepare for and respond to them to reduce the harm they could cause. The Agency also holds meetings and conducts exercises and Workshops to strengthen these preparedness and response efforts. The Agency expert in this photo inspected the damage to Reactor Unit 3 at TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in May 2011, just months after a large earthquake caused a tsunami that swept over the plant, causing severe damage. Determining the radiation level in areas affected by a nuclear or radiological emergency is an important part of the response. Radioactive material is measured with tools like this hand-held detector, used by a Nigerian expert taking part in an IAEA Workshop held in May 2013 in Fukushima Prefecture, Japan. Participants measured radiation levels at several locations in areas that were evacuated following the March 2011 accident at TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. The Workshop aimed to further strengthen nuclear and radiological emergency preparedness and response capabilities that are available upon request through the IAEA's Response and Assistance Network (RANET). This is a network of 23 countries that have told the Agency what support they can offer other countries in case assistance is requested following a nuclear or radiological emergency. Workshop participants took many of the types of measurements that would be needed following an emergency. The Slovenian team in this picture is using specialized gamma spectrometry equipment and other detectors to measure radiation. Before each field exercise started, IAEA RANET Officer, Pat Kenny, briefed the more than 40 participants who had traveled to Fukushima Prefecture from 18 different countries. The participants in the Workshop measured radiation at specific sites.  They brought their own equipment from their home institutions, meaning that many different kinds of detectors were used - the experts in this photo are using hand-held monitors for their measurements. The results collected by the teams were compared to each other. Such 'inter-comparison' exercises help the IAEA and its Member States better prepare for emergency response. Participants also used mobile systems to measure radiation. These systems can be carried in a vehicle, in a backpack or on the shoulder, as done by the Czech expert in this photo. By taking many measurements across a specified area, the experts collected data to create maps showing the different levels of radiation. Such maps are useful in areas where there has been a nuclear or radiological emergency so that authorities can take decisions about various public protective actions and later for decontamination and returning the public to their homes. These French experts used  a measurement system mounted inside a trolley. The experts measured the radiation levels at a parking lot, where they found that the cracks in the asphalt had higher levels than the asphalt itself. This is because rain has flushed radioactive material from the asphalt into the cracks, where it remains. In this photo, experts use hand-held detectors to measure radiation coming from cracks. Each team was tasked with creating a map showing the radiation levels in a segment of the parking lot. These experts are recording measurements every metre, taking large steps between stopping to record each measurement. The experts wrapped their equipment in plastic to protect it from persistent rain. Instead of grumbling about the weather, some participants said it was useful to practice working in rainy conditions as they might face any type of weather when deployed to respond to a nuclear or radiological emergency. Some teams took soil samples for analysis in a laboratory. In this photo, an Australian expert uses a spade and a cookie-cutter-like instrument to collect a sample. While digging up samples, the experts took care not to touch or inhale the soil, as it might be contaminated with radioactivity. The samples were placed in plastic containers, labeled and sent to a local laboratory for analysis. Before leaving the evacuated area, all participants and vehicles were screened carefully to ensure they had not been contaminated with radioactive material. Here, IAEA Incident and Emergency Assessment Officer, Joseph Chaput, screens a participant. RANET is a key component in the IAEA's work to improve international readiness to respond to a nuclear or radiological emergency. This complements the Agency's work to help its Member States to prevent such emergencies. The IAEA RANET Workshop was held from 28 to 31 May 2013 in Fukushima Prefecture, Japan. <br /><br />© IAEA