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IAEA Supports Saudi First Responders to Radiological and Nuclear Emergencies


More than 50 participants from at least 20 ministries, offices and specialized agencies of Saudi Arabia attended a five-day capacity building event for first responders in the event of radiological or nuclear emergencies. (Photo: NRRC)

Experts and decisions-makers from more than 20 government agencies in Saudi Arabia have learned more about their roles as first responders in the event of a radiological or nuclear emergency. At a training course organized online by the IAEA from 4 to 8 April—the first to be delivered for Saudi Arabia and the third  conducted entirely in Arabic on this topic—trainers explained the responsibilities of first responders and provided the attendees with comprehensive guidance to facilitate the execution of their duties, ranging from site monitoring and decontamination to communication with the public.

“Following the training course, the participants are now familiar with the action guides associated with different responders and teams, and are now able to quickly detect an emergency and perform the necessary, initial tasks on the scene in a timely manner. These skills are crucial for an effective response,” said Muzna Assi, an Emergency Preparedness Officer at the IAEA.

The event was attended by 50 nuclear regulators, national guards, customs and port authority agents, and other officials. The participants were introduced to the basic principles and best practices which underpin an effective response to a radiological or nuclear emergency irrespective of the triggering event.

“Representing a wide variety of governmental and ministerial institutions and agencies, the interactive discussions among participants simulated the actual response in the event of any radiological or nuclear emergency irrespective of the cause,” explained Assi. “During working sessions, participants from different organizations worked on the tasks together, providing them with an opportunity to get to know each other’s fields of expertise and to enhance their cooperation within the country in future.”

Saudi Arabia is seeking to increase and diversify its electricity production for continued economic growth and development. In 2018, the Government announced its intention to add nuclear to the country’s energy mix, and in 2019, Saudi Arabia hosted an INIR mission. (Photo: NRRC)

Organized through an ongoing IAEA technical cooperation (TC) project[1], the training course was designed to give attendees an overview of the terminology and objectives of emergency preparedness and response, and then to provide detail on specific, practical elements. The focus of the training course covered a range of relevant topics, from the role of the IAEA and the structure of response organizations to exploring guidelines for personal protection, site decontamination and communication with the public.

“For Saudi Arabia, we have benefited from the IAEA’s expertise and knowledge in the emergency preparedness and response field,” said Nasser Alkhomashi, Vice President of the Emergency and Radiological Monitoring Sector of Saudi Arabia’s Nuclear and Radiological Regulatory Commission (NRRC). “This training course allowed us to enhance our capacities and helped us to improve our national arrangements to respond to radiological and nuclear emergencies. We also gained in-depth knowledge of different subjects, such as medical response and public communication.”

The training course was developed on the basis of the Manual of First Responders to a Radiological Emergency, an IAEA publication first released in 2006—currently under revision to reflect the latest technical guidance related to radiological emergencies.

“Training first responders from different national officials to respond efficiently to a nuclear or radiological emergency at the local, regional and national levels helps enhance Saudi Arabia’s capabilities in the field,” said Assi.

Saudi Arabia is seeking to increase and diversify its electricity production for continued economic growth and development. In 2018, the Government announced its intention to add nuclear power to the country’s energy mix. Following the announcement, in 2019 Saudi Arabia hosted an INIR mission.

“This was an important national course for first responders to radiation emergencies, and we appreciated the provision of training material in Arabic,” said Mohammed Hussain Najjar, Head of Saudi Customs’ Radiation Safety and Dangerous Goods Division. “I look forward to more specialized IAEA courses in the field of emergency preparedness and response, at all levels.”

Similar activities that support development priorities in the region can be found in the Compendium, 'Journeys to Success: A Collection of Success Stories from IAEA Technical Cooperation in Asia and the Pacific.' The publication chronicles achievements and the substantial contribution of the IAEA’s technical cooperation programme, as described by IAEA partners and experts from the region, and can be found here.

[1] SAU9011, ‘Supporting the Implementation of the Regulatory Body and the Development of Nuclear Regulations’.

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