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Strengthening Global Cooperation on Nuclear Emergency Preparedness


IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi addressing the 12th Meeting of the Representatives of Competent Authority held in the IAEA Headquarters, Vienna, Austria. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA) 

Experts in nuclear emergencies are meeting in Vienna this week, to discuss ways to further improve the international system for preparing and responding to incidents.

The meeting brings together 268 participants from 113 countries and seven international organizations. This unique global forum, known as the Competent Authorities Meeting (CAM), is held biennially and is dedicated to discussing the future of nuclear and radiological emergency preparedness and response.

In the opening meeting of CAM, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi highlighted the evolving challenges in emergency preparedness and response, underscoring the nature of potential emergencies, real or hypothetical, has changed since 1986. “Today, we face cyber factors, extreme weather phenomena, and conventional conflicts and wars that were not as prevalent in the mid-80s. Therefore, we need to continually update our activities, communication methods, and the instruments we use, which are clearly defined in the conventions.”

Nuclear emergencies can occur without warning, despite the most robust safety systems in place. A prompt coordinated response and international cooperation are crucial in mitigating the impacts on people, property and the environment. The two  ’emergency’ conventions — The Convention on Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident and the Convention on Assistance in the Case of a Nuclear Accident or Radiological Emergency — were established following the Chornobyl nuclear power plant  accident in 1986, and both define the responsibilities for prompt notification and mutual assistance during such emergencies. The CAM meeting focuses on enhancing the implementation of these conventions to ensure the global community is prepared to respond to any nuclear or radiological emergency.

IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Nuclear Safety and Security, Lydie Evrard underlined the importance of the meeting to strengthen the international legal framework for emergency preparedness and response and stated: “The Early Notification and Assistance Conventions place us all under obligation to consider this simple question: How well prepared are we to protect people, society and the environment from the consequences of a nuclear or radiological emergency?  One of the key objectives of this meeting is to provide the space to address this important question.”

Throughout the CAM, participants will be discussing a wide range of technical and scientific topics related to emergency preparedness and response. These include presentations on different countries’ emergency information exchange arrangements and optimizing the IAEA’s Response and Assistance Network.

A notable panel discussion on 4 June gathered experts from China, Korea, Saudi Arabia, and the United States to explore advanced technologies for emergency preparedness and response, including the development of arrangements for small modular reactors (SMRs) and the implications of artificial intelligence in crisis response.

At the conclusion of the meeting, participants will agree on a series of recommendations and action items to be implemented by countries and the IAEA, aimed at enhancing the emergency conventions' effectiveness.

Raoul Awad, Deputy Director General of the Operations Division at the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation in the United Arab Emirates and the meeting’s Chairperson emphasised the importance of this gathering, stating: “together, we share a great responsibility: maintaining and enhancing under any and all circumstances the international EPR framework. This meeting is essential since it gathers the world’s experts in the implementation of the Emergency Conventions and in nuclear and radiological emergency preparedness and response. Together, we determine if our arrangements are sufficient to ensure an effective emergency response when that response must be undertaken under increasingly complex conditions.”

268 participants from 113 countries and seven international organizations attend the 12th Meeting of the Representatives of Competent Authority hosted in the IAEA Headquaters in Vienna. (Photo: Y.Han/IAEA)

The IAEA’s Role in Response

The IAEA supports countries in reviewing and strengthening their emergency response procedures through training, exercises, and maintaining tools like the Unified System for Information Exchange (USIE), the Response and Assistance Network (RANET), and the International Radiation Monitoring Information System (IRMIS).

 Director of the IAEA’s Incident and Emergency Centre, Carlos Torres Vidal emphasised the importance of key upcoming activities by the IAEA in this area, including ConvEx-3, the largest global exercise in nuclear emergency preparedness and the IAEA EPR Conference scheduled for the fall of 2025.

“This exercise, and the resulting report, will provide invaluable insights to further strengthen international procedures for response to major nuclear or radiological emergencies. All Member States are encouraged to participate as we all stand to benefit,” underscored Torres Vidal.

The CAM underscores the critical need for ongoing international collaboration to address the complexities of nuclear emergency preparedness in an evolving global landscape.

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