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IAEA Closer to Finalising New Safety Guide for Nuclear Transport Emergencies

Participants in the Technical Meeting to Review the Draft Safety Guide on Preparedness and Response for an Emergency during the Transport of Radioactive Material (DS469) in Vienna, Austria. (Photo: S. Harvey/IAEA)

Radioactive material is used in a variety of fields such as medicine, agriculture, scientific research and industrial production. For each sector to function efficiently, it requires regular transport of radioactive material. In fact, the transportation of such materials within and between countries across the globe is estimated to reach as many as 20 million shipments per year*, by air, road, rail, marine or inland waterways.

In 2015, the IAEA published the revised Safety Requirements for Preparedness and Response for a Nuclear or Radiological Emergency (GSR Part 7). To assist Member States in implementing these requirements, the IAEA is currently in the final stages of updating its Safety Guide on Preparedness and Response for an Emergency during the Transport of Radioactive Material.

62 emergency response and transport safety experts from regulatory bodies, national competent authorities and emergency management agencies attended an IAEA Technical Meeting from 16 to 20 October to review the draft Safety Guide. The participants, representing a total of 44 Member States and one international organization, shared their past experience for emergencies during transport of radioactive materials and other dangerous goods, their national arrangements, as basis to identify areas for improvement in the draft text of the Safety Guide.

“The meeting was an opportunity for participants to comment on or amend the draft text, but more than that, it gave each Member State an opportunity to bring their experts together to share information on how this Safety Guide will be used”, said the meeting’s Chairperson, Eric Vial. Mr Vial works as Deputy Director of Health in charge of Emergency Preparedness and Response Activities at the National Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety, a French technical support organization. “During the meeting, many countries identified complexities with the implementation of technical and operational arrangements at the preparedness stage. This coming together of so many experts was a welcome step in the process for completing the development of this new Safety Guide”, Mr Vial added.

The revised Safety Guide will supersede its previous version from 2002, and set out guidance and recommendations which aim to achieve the highest levels of emergency preparedness and response for the transportation of radioactive material based in part on these past experiences and research. It will also support the implementation of IAEA Regulations for the Safe Transport of Radioactive Material, IAEA Safety Standards Series No. SSR-6.

During the week, attendees had the chance to test the draft Safety Guide by applying its guidance and recommendations in response to the simulated emergencies in a virtual environment. The virtual reality scenarios were developed by Joseph Chaput, Incident and Emergency Assessment Officer with the IAEA Incident and Emergency Centre. He explained, “More than 50 participants conducted over 200 virtual reality based exercises for transport emergency scenarios. Feedback from the participants on application of the draft Safety Guide in response to simulated emergencies was used for revision of the draft. In addition, their feedback on the use of virtual reality for training in emergency preparedness and response was overwhelmingly positive. We look forward to developing additional scenarios in the future which could be used to further strengthen our training programme”.

It is planned to submit the Safety Guide to the IAEA Safety Standards Committees in 2018.

* Source: World Nuclear Transport Institute

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