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New IAEA Safety Guide: Deciding When to End Emergency Situations

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One of many challenges authorities face in the preparation for nuclear or radiological emergencies relates to their end: when to terminate an emergency situation and transition to a normal state needs to be well-supported. A new IAEA Safety Guide provides guidance and recommendations on when and how to do that.

The Safety Guide on Arrangements for the Termination of a Nuclear or Radiological Emergency (No. GSG-11), published last week, aims to facilitate the timely resumption of normal social and economic activity in the wake of a nuclear or radiological emergency. It offers guidance on topics such as how to determine when to lift protective actions imposed earlier in the response, including evacuations and restrictions on the consumption of local produce. The Guide supports national authorities in developing arrangements for such decisions as part of their overall emergency preparedness efforts. 

The Guide is jointly sponsored by 10 international organizations. It is complemented by IAEA training activities, including a pilot workshop that was held in December 2017 in Vienna, Austria.

Ciara McMahon, Programme Manager at Ireland’s Environmental Protection Agency, and a lecturer at the pilot workshop, said the Safety Guide filled a gap, as the topics it covers have not until now been covered in national emergency preparedness and response frameworks.

“This Safety Guide will help decision makers as they face the challenge of when to formally declare an emergency ended,” she said.  “This involves defining radiation protection considerations as well as other factors that provide for the safety and well-being of affected populations as the emergency transitions to a new normal.”

‘New normal’ refers to a post-emergency situation that is not necessarily identical with the situation before the emergency.

The Safety Guide supports the implementation of requirements publications included in the IAEA General Safety Requirements publications Preparedness and Response for a Nuclear or Radiological Emergency (No. GSR Part 7) and Radiation Protection and Safety of Radiation Sources: International Basic Safety Standards (No. GSR Part 3). Training materials on the new safety guide will be published in coming months.

In addition to the IAEA, the Safety Guide is supported by: the Food and Agriculture Organization of The United Nations, the International Civil Aviation Organization, the International Labour Office,

International Maritime Organization, Interpol, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Nuclear Energy Agency, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the World Health Organization and the World Meteorological Organization.

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