The treatment of persons overexposed to ionizing radiation requires specific knowledge and capabilities, which may not be available in every country. Radiation accidents affecting people are rare, but when they occur, they might induce severe health effects and in some circumstances lead to permanent physical impairment of a person or even death. Recognizing the importance of effective and accessible emergency treatment, the IAEA works with Member States to coordinate the medical assistance requested and, additionally, to build their capacities to provide appropriate medical management in radiation accidents.
Though the IAEA works with Member States on these topics globally, a side event held at the IAEA on 23 September 2014, during the IAEA 58th General Conference, focused on the collaborative work of the IAEA, France, as well as three South American IAEA Member States, which have in the last few years further enhanced their cooperative efforts in the medical management of radiation accidents. The meeting was co-hosted by the IAEA and France and highlighted recent developments and cooperation in national and regional capacity building. Representatives from Brazil, Chile, France and Peru shared their experiences and discussed avenues for further combined efforts in the medical management of radiation accidents.
Several presentations illustrated how knowledge and technical capabilities are shared between participating Member States with support from the IAEA. The presentations also reflected the benefits of the integration of medical management capacities locally, regionally and globally, which the meeting panellists agreed is essential to managing and addressing these cases and for furthering progress in this field.
Echoing the perspectives shared by the panel, Susana Petrick, President of the Peruvian Institute of Nuclear Energy (IPEN), highlighted the importance of the assistance provided to Peru when cases of radiation overexposure occurred. She noted the effectiveness of the IAEA’s Response and Assistance Network (RANET) in managing the situation, with the significant joint contribution of the French Military hospital, Hôpital d’instruction des armées Percy (Percy Training Hospital of the Armies), and the Institut de Radioprotection et de Sûreté Nucléaire (IRSN; Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety).
The General Conference side event concluded with a question and answer session moderated by Marion Paradas, Permanent Representative of France to the IAEA, and Elena Buglova, Head of the IAEA Incident and Emergency Centre (IEC).
The IAEA’s IEC is the global focal point for emergency preparedness and response for nuclear and radiological safety or security related incidents, emergencies, threats or events of media interest, and is the world’s centre for coordination of international emergency preparedness and response assistance.
The Convention on Assistance in the Case of a Nuclear Accident or Radiological Emergency (Assistance Convention) sets out an international framework for cooperation among States Parties and with the IAEA to facilitate prompt assistance and support in the event of nuclear or radiological incidents or emergencies. The IAEA serves as the focal point for such cooperation by facilitating the provision of assistance through channelling information, supporting efforts and providing its available services.
As part of the IAEA’s strategy for supporting practical implementation of the Assistance Convention, the IEC manages RANET, a tool for providing international assistance, upon request from a State, following a nuclear or radiological incident or emergency. State Parties to the Assistance Convention are expected, within the limits of their capabilities and resources, to identify national assistance capabilities (NACs) consisting of qualified experts, equipment and materials that could be made available to assist another State.