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Emergencies Don’t Sleep: IAEA and Sweden Test Response Arrangements to Simulated Nuclear Accident

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IAEA Incident and Emergency System responders in the Incident and Emergency Centre‘s “operational area” participate in an exercise  simulating a nuclear accident, Vienna, Austria. (Photo: K. Vargas/IAEA)

During a 36-hour emergency exercise held recently, the IAEA Incident and Emergency Centre (IEC) together with counterparts from 41 countries and 3 international organizations simulated a global emergency response to a nuclear accident. The exercise was conducted in cooperation with authorities in Sweden, who developed the scenario and acted as the ‘accident state’.

“The purpose of the exercise was, among others, to strengthen all relevant organizations’ capacity to deal with a nuclear accident, both in terms of safety and security, as well as to strengthen Sweden’s ability to receive support from other countries regarding radiation measurements,” said Catarina Danestig Sjögren, Head of the Emergency Preparedness and Response Section at the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority (SSM).

The exercise started on 23 October, when the SSM reported the detection of a security threat at the Forsmark Nuclear Power Plant. Over the following days, Member States and international organizations received, acknowledged, submitted and responded to information postings about the event on the IAEA’s Unified System for Information Exchange in Incidents and Emergencies (USIE) secure website.

“The IAEA Incident and Emergency System responders played their roles exchanging official information, providing public information, assessing potential emergency consequences, providing prognoses of possible emergency progression, and facilitating a request for and offers of assistance,” said Kilian Smith, IAEA Response and Assistance Network (RANET) officer.

During the exercise, the SSM submitted a request for assistance to the IAEA’s IEC, the focal point for the coordination and facilitation of international assistance. Following this request, the IAEA developed an Assistance Action Plan and organized a RANET Joint Assistance Team mission to Forsmark, comprising the IAEA Field Assistance Team and teams from Denmark, Finland and Norway. From 29 October to 1 November, the Joint Assistance team assessed the radiological situation in the environment using in situ gamma spectrometry, car-borne and backpack radiation monitoring.

“The exercise provided an excellent opportunity for an IAEA Field Assistance Team to successfully test the implementation of assistance arrangements for the first time” said Stephane Defour, IAEA Response System Analyst.

The purpose of the exercise was, among others, to strengthen all relevant organizations’ capacity to deal with a nuclear accident, both in terms of safety and security, as well as to strengthen Sweden’s ability to receive support from other countries regarding radiation measurements.
Catarina Danestig Sjögren, Head, Emergency Preparedness and Response Section, Swedish Radiation Safety Authority (SSM).

Background

Activities of the RANET Joint Assistance Team, Forsmark, Sweden. (Photo: S. Defour/IAEA)

The IAEA has defined responsibilities and functions which are in accordance with its Statute, the Convention on Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident (the Early Notification Convention), the Convention on Assistance in the Case of a Nuclear Accident or Radiological Emergency (the Assistance Convention) and relevant decisions of IAEA policy-making organs. Convention Exercises (ConvEx) are regularly conducted to practice the operational arrangements for the implementation of these conventions.

In the event of a nuclear or radiological incident or emergency, Member States may request assistance from or through the IAEA. For this purpose, the IAEA maintains the Response and Assistance Network (RANET) which currently comprises 35 Member States who have identified national assistance capabilities that consist of qualified experts, equipment and materials, which could be made available to assist another State. The RANET procedures tested during this exercise are described in the IAEA Response and Assistance Network manual (EPR-RANET 2018).

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