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IAEA Mission Assists Lebanon with Technical Expertise and Equipment after Beirut Blast

Beirut, Lebanon

Experts from the IAEA response assistance mission to Lebanon measure radiation levels at a scrapyard in Beirut on 14 September 2020. (Photo: K. Smith/IAEA)

An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team of experts is in Beirut this week to support emergency response efforts in the Lebanese capital following last month’s explosion in its port area. Lebanese authorities have reported to the IAEA that they did not detect any elevated radiation levels after the blast on 4 August but requested the mission to confirm their measurements and to give advice on nuclear safety and security matters.

Earlier, the IAEA acted to help Lebanon in other ways, including in the areas of health, as many hospitals were damaged in the explosion.

“Following the devastating explosion at the Port of Beirut in Lebanon, the Agency took swift action to help respond to the country’s immediate needs,” said IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi. “An IAEA assistance mission, with the involvement of experts from Member States, will provide support with radiation surveying, sampling and analysis and advise on any potential radiation hazards.”

During the week-long mission starting today, the IAEA team, comprised of four experts from Denmark and France as well as four IAEA staff members, will measure radiation levels at a number of locations in Beirut. The experts will also assess the impact of the explosion on the safety and security of radioactive material and sources in hospitals, scrapyards and the port. The IAEA will donate handheld radiation detection equipment to the authorities and training will also be carried out.

Additionally, samples of food, seawater, soil and building material collected by Lebanese authorities will be analysed in laboratories in France and Switzerland.

In response to a request for assistance from Lebanon, the IAEA arranged the assistance mission with involvement of Member States registered in  the IAEA’s Response and Assistance Network (RANET), a network of states which offer assistance to minimize the actual or potential radiological consequences of nuclear or radiological emergencies irrespective of the origin.  Participating in RANET is one way for states to fulfil their obligations under the Convention on Assistance in the Case of a Nuclear Accident or Radiological Emergency, adopted in 1986 following the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident.

“We have been in close contact with the Lebanese authorities since the time of the explosion. We activated RANET following their request for assistance and received offers from fourteen countries to support the response effort,“  said Elena Buglova, Head of the IAEA’s Incident and Emergency Centre (IEC).

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