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New IAEA Safety Standards Reinforce Emergency Preparedness and Response

participants at the interregional workshop on the recently released  Part 7 of the IAEA General Safety Requirements

Jean-Francois Lafortune, the Emergency Preparedness Coordinator of the IAEA Incident and Emergency Centre addressing participants at the workshop on the recently released IAEA General Safety Requirements No. GSR Part 7. (Photo: J.C. Castillo/IAEA)

IAEA Member States will need to further strengthen their emergency preparedness and response (EPR) frameworks based on the newly published IAEA Safety Requirements publication on Preparedness and Response for a Nuclear or Radiological Emergency. The new publication establishes strengthened requirements for various aspects of emergency preparedness and response such as the emergency management system, protection strategies for a nuclear or radiological emergency, resilience of emergency arrangements against a range of hazardous conditions, protection of emergency workers and helpers, and cooperation in case of a transboundary emergency. The publication, which replaces the previous edition issued in 2002, is part of the IAEA Safety Standards Series, designed to build a stronger foundation for safe operations including for EPR when using nuclear energy or radiation sources. It is essential to have effective emergency and response frameworks that are linked nationally, regionally and internationally, said Vincent McClelland, Director of International Emergency Management and Cooperation in the National Nuclear Security Administration, United States Department of Energy at a workshop for European experts held last week on the new safety requirements. “Countries need to talk to their neighbours to ensure that response systems are harmonized and well-coordinated.” Over the next decade, the new safety requirements in emergency preparedness and response will remain a major reference for Member States to consult when establishing or enhancing national emergency arrangements, said Svetlana Nestoroska Madjunarova, an emergency preparedness officer at the IAEA Incident and Emergency Centre. The safety requirements are intended for use by governments, emergency response organizations, and other authorities at the local, regional and national levels, operating organizations as well as regulatory bodies and relevant international organizations. The facility operators and response organizations have to ensure that all the responders are well protected while engaging in any nuclear or radiological emergency situation. Designating emergency workers and managing, controlling and recording their radiation doses form an important element of the new safety standards publication, said Johannes Kuhlen, head of the division responsible for EPR at Germany’s Federal Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety.

Strengthening national coordination

Although EPR is a national responsibility, the IAEA has been supporting Member States through its programmes to assist them in setting up national emergency and preparedness frameworks that are compatible with international standards. “This publication is designed to guide States in developing and reinforcing integrated systems when faced with emergency situations and how they can go about achieving it with our assistance,” said Jean-Francois Lafortune, Emergency Preparedness Coordinator at the IAEA Incident and Emergency Centre. Sponsored by 13 international intergovernmental organizations, the new safety requirements take into account the latest lessons and developments in the area of emergency preparedness and response, including from the 2011 accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. “Participants are learning more about what they need to do back home to introduce and implement the new safety standards requirements,” McClelland observed during the workshop on the new safety requirements held last week. “Countries also need strong partnerships and such interactions are vital to move forward in implementing safety measures.” As the publication’s foreword states, “standards are only effective if they are properly applied in practice.” For this purpose, in 2016–2017 workshops similar to the one conducted last week are planned for Member States from other regions.

Applying safety standards

The IAEA safety standards reflect an international consensus of what constitutes a high level of safety to protect people and the environment from the harmful effects of ionizing radiation. These standards are applicable throughout the entire lifetime of all facilities and activities – existing and new – utilized for the peaceful purposes, and for protective actions to reduce radiation risks.

Countries need to talk to their neighbours to ensure that response systems are harmonized and well-coordinated.
Vincent McClelland, Director, International Emergency Management and Cooperation, United States Department of Energy

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