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Exercises Allow IAEA, Member States to Practice for Emergencies

Members of the Response Communications Team at work in the IEC Communications Room during the Full Response Mode Exercise (FRME), IAEA, Vienna, Austria, 21 November 2012

Members of the Response Communications Team at work in the IEC Communications Room during a Full Response Mode Exercise (FRME).  (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

It takes practice to be ready for the worst.

This is why the IAEA regularly takes part in or hosts exercises based on mock nuclear or radiological emergency scenarios.

The Agency's Incident and Emergency Centre (IEC) recently took part in five different Member State exercises, offering even more opportunities for IAEA staff to sharpen their ability to handle such high-demand emergency situations.

One such exercise took place in Bulgaria, lasted a full day, and involved a mock scenario in which a strong earthquake damaged a nuclear reactor, leading to the release of radioactive materials into the environment. In addition to Bulgaria, more than 45 Member States and four international organizations took part in the exercise.

More than 1,000 people took part in this exercise in Bulgaria, while the IEC simulated activation of its "full response mode," which means the IEC is staffed continuously to act and coordinate the Agency's operational response with the involvement of technical experts from throughout the Agency.

One of the IAEA's roles during an emergency is to provide assistance at the accident state's request and to coordinate and facilitate such assistance. The Agency also shares information with Member States, including assessments from its experts on the potential consequences of an emergency, and the public. These assessments are based on a thorough analysis of all available information and, whenever appropriate, a prognosis of possible scenarios that takes into account factual evidence, scientific knowledge and input from the respective Member States.

The Agency aims to provide timely, clear, factually correct, objective and easily understandable information, as laid out in the IAEA Action Plan on Nuclear Safety, endorsed by Member States in September 2011 as a follow-up to the March 2011 accident at TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station.

Elena Buglova, Head of the Incident and Emergency Centre, said exercises are helping the Centre stay ready and prepared to support Member States in emergencies.

"Exercises also help us strengthen our cooperation with our partners from around the world and provide an important opportunity to see how our preparations hold up in near-realistic conditions," she said.

The full-day exercise with Bulgaria helped the Agency strengthen its information-sharing process in emergencies. The exercise also provided an opportunity for the IEC to learn more about the involved Member States' capacity to share information in an emergency setting.