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Innovation in Emergency Preparedness and Response: IAEA Member States Meet to Discuss Technology as a Driving Force for Effective Response

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Presentation Session during the Technical Meeting on Advances on Emergency Preparedness and Response Technology and Arrangements at the Agency's headquarters in Vienna, Austria, 11  April 2019. (Photo: M. Otarra/IAEA)

Innovation drives not only peaceful applications of nuclear energy, but also effective response to a nuclear or radiological emergency. New technologies such as online data sharing services and virtual reality offer new opportunities to support emergency preparedness and response (EPR) – and information about these should be shared globally, participants of the IAEA Technical Meeting on Advances on Emergency Preparedness and Response Technology and Arrangements concluded this week.

The meeting, held from 8 to 12 April 2019 in Vienna, welcomed over 180 participants from more than 70 Member States and three international organizations who discussed innovation in EPR technology used by first responders, accident simulation software, atmospheric modelling, radiological dispersion prediction and the handling of large amounts of data during an emergency.

“In EPR, each lesson learned after a nuclear or radiological emergency is an opportunity to rethink how we can better respond using the advanced technologies available today,” Elena Buglova, Head of the IAEA Incident and Emergency Centre, said in her opening address.

The meeting covered a variety of advanced technologies, including a demonstration of the use of simulation software to educate, train and assess emergency response decision makers, and a discussion on the use of mobile drones, vehicle monitoring systems and other instruments to respond to a radiological emergency. Speakers also shared experiences of using long-range atmospheric dispersion models to support decisions on how to protect the public in an emergency and showcased how data exchange and information management improvements can be used to give authorities access to live information from nuclear power plant operators during an emergency.

“Seeing and learning about all the innovative solutions used to facilitate EPR arrangements during the meeting was eye-opening”, said Brenda Pobanz, Operations Manager at the USA National Atmospheric Release Advisory Center. “It is encouraging that IAEA Member States are using innovation to strengthen their emergency response capabilities for nuclear and radiological emergencies.”

During the eight sessions, speakers offered views on the future of EPR technology and its use during emergencies. They underlined the importance of studying new technologies to consider how they could be used to improve preparations for and responses to nuclear or radiological emergencies, and of sharing the findings globally.

Looking ahead, participants noted that the current challenges in emergency response, including ensuring the capability to handle, process and share large amounts of data in emergencies and the use of crowd-sourced detection tools, will need to be tackled in the future.

“By enabling the exchange information on new and upcoming technologies in EPR, this meeting encouraged fresh thinking of innovative solutions to EPR challenges”, said Ms Pobanz. “The lessons learned and recommendations from this meeting will benefit response organizations around the world.”

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