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Strengthening Global Responses to Nuclear and Radiological Emergencies: 10th CAM Concludes


IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi (centre) and Chair of the 10th Competent Authorities Meeting,  Jaime Salas Kurte, Executive Director of the Chilean Nuclear Energy Commission  (shown on screen)  address participants at the opening session. (Photo: K. Vargas/IAEA)

Promoting the implementation of the Convention on Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident (Early Notification Convention) and the Convention on Assistance in the Case of a Nuclear Accident or Radiological Emergency (Assistance Convention) is essential, as well as the participation in exercises and training activities, to improve emergency management. These were among the several conclusions the Competent Authorities responsible for national nuclear and radiological emergency preparedness and response agreed to recently. Virtually for the first time from 15 to 19 June, these officials, designated by their governments to implement these Conventions, agreed on actions they and the IAEA will take in the coming two years.

“The fact that we are conducting a virtual Competent Authorities Meeting reflects the ability of all of us to innovate quickly,” said IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi at the opening session. “The IAEA plays a key role in bringing countries together to cooperate in ensuring the most effective preparation for emergency and response in case of a nuclear or radiological incident.”

Mr Grossi also noted that the IAEA is learning from COVID-19. “The key lesson is that preparedness and response procedures need to be adapted to deal with challenges from pandemics.”

During the 10th Competent Authorities Meeting, or CAM, participants reaffirmed their continuing commitment to test the operational arrangements outlined in the EPR-IEComm 2019. In addition, participants commended the vital role that the IAEA’s Unified System for Information Exchange in Incidents and Emergencies (USIE) — a secure website — plays in sharing information on safety or security-related nuclear and radiological incidents and emergencies, both for actual events and in exercises, and encouraged the IAEA to develop a mobile-friendly version.

Representatives also took note of the importance of having arrangements in place to ensure effective public communication in a nuclear or radiological emergency, and highlighted the progress made in relation to the IAEA’s role in assessment and prognosis in a nuclear or radiological emergency. The IAEA encouraged countries to designate data providers for the International Radiation Monitoring Information System (IRMIS).

Click here to take a behind-the-scenes look at the virtual meeting.

For 20 years now, the CAM serves as the world’s forum to review the implementation of the two Conventions that define the global emergency preparedness and response framework. Held biannually since 2000, the CAM has grown substantially from 58 Member States and two international organizations to 96 countries and twelve international intergovernmental organizations this year. At the CAM, the IAEA also marked the 15-year anniversary of its Incident and Emergency Centre (IEC). In continuous 24/7 operation for over 130 000 hours, the IEC maintained its response readiness also during the COVID-19 pandemic. Watch this video to learn more.

Since its establishment in 1957, the IAEA has sustained an emergency response capability. Fifteen years ago, the IAEA launched the Incident and Emergency Centre as a global centre capable of responding around-the-clock to any safety or security-related nuclear or radiological emergency. The IEC maintains the Incident and Emergency System (IES) comprising trained on-duty and on-call staff to respond to a nuclear or radiological incident or emergency, as well as to requests for assistance. IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Nuclear Safety and Security Juan Carlos Lentijo noted that the IEC and the IES are key components in the IAEA’s fulfilment of its mandate to support global nuclear safety and security.

“In an emergency, over 200 trained IAEA staff are continuously available to provide technical and scientific assessments, assist countries and coordinate international response efforts,” said Elena Buglova, Head of the IEC. “Since 2005, the IEC receives about 250 reports annually, issued by competent authorities, as well as through disaster alert systems and media reports. We assess, process and respond to every report, involving or assumed to involve nuclear or radiological facilities or activities.”

Following the March 2011 Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident, through the IES, 230 IAEA staff operated in 24/7 ‘full response mode’ for 54 days.

Global go-to Centre

By training up to 1000 emergency responders annually and by organizing and participating in international, regional and national exercises, the IEC continually enhances countries’ and its own emergency response capacity. In close collaboration with Member States and international organizations, the IEC develops safety standards and technical guidance to support countries’ emergency preparedness and response infrastructure development.

“Every exercise, training, publication or initiative implemented is an opportunity to learn and rethink how to be better prepared to respond to a nuclear or radiological emergency, regardless of its cause, in the years to come,” Buglova highlighted.


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