Major IAEA international nuclear emergency exercise concludes after 36 hours
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), along with 77 Member States and 12 international organizations, concluded a two day international emergency exercise today that tested responses to a simulated accident at a nuclear power plant (NPP) in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Hosted by the UAE, the exercise scenario involved an emergency at the Barakah NPP which resulted in a significant release of radioactive material into the atmosphere. Exercise participants worked throughout the 36 hour exercise to address matters such as the prompt exchange of information, assessment of the situation, decisions on protective and other response actions including possible medical response, public communication, and the import and export of goods.
Large scale exercises of this kind – so called Level 3 Convention Exercises, or ‘ConvEx-3’ — are the IAEA’s highest level and most complex emergency exercise. Based on a national exercise in a Member State, they are conducted every three to five years to test arrangements in place that fulfil the obligations specified under the Convention on Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident and the Convention on Assistance in the Case of a Nuclear Accident or Radiological Emergency. The last ConvEx-3 was held in 2017 and hosted by Hungary.
Several activities were included for the first time in a ConvEx-3. An International Assistance Mission, comprised of experts from France, the Republic of Korea and the United States, as well as the IAEA, provided real time radiation monitoring data from the area around the Barakah NPP. In close cooperation with the IAEA network of Analytical Laboratories for the Measurement of Environmental Radioactivity, 111 laboratories worldwide provided gamma spectrum analysis results of these “live” measurements. The IAEA social media simulator was also used throughout the exercise to test communication arrangements for social networks.
“Efficient coordination between many national and international organizations is essential to be certain we can effectively mitigate the consequences of a nuclear or radiological emergency without delay or conflicting priorities,” said Florian Baciu, acting Head of the IAEA Incident and Emergency Centre. “A ConvEx-3 is designed to evaluate the consistency of emergency preparedness and response actions undertaken by States and international organizations to identify both good practices and those requiring strengthening. We are grateful to the UAE, and to the hundreds of representatives from Member States and intergovernmental organizations who contributed to the success of this exercise”.
This week’s exercise underscored the need for continuously strengthening cooperation during an emergency at the national and international level on the prompt exchange of information; the conduct of assessment and prognosis; the provision of international assistance; and the coordination of public information.
In the coming weeks, the IAEA will compile feedback from participating Member States and international organizations into a report that will identify good practices and areas for further improvement to strengthen national and international preparedness to respond to nuclear and radiological emergencies.