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IAEA: Need for improved communication with public in emergency cases

November 2, 2015

IAEA Conference President Calls For Better Emergency Communications Material


2 Nov (NucNet): The International Atomic Energy Agency should develop communications material that can be used by the nuclear industry and governments for providing scientifically based information to the public on issues relating to nuclear or radiological emergencies, the president of the International Conference on Global Emergency Preparedness and Response said.

Ramzi Jammal, who is also executive vice-president and chief regulatory operations officer at the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, said the need for improved communication with the public was one of the key recommendations from the conference, held in Vienna last month.

He said the information should be developed in conjunction and consultation with the public and be written in simple and clear language to ensure that it is understood by the broadest audience.

Using a single reference document will ensure that “consistent and credible information” is being communicated worldwide, he said.

Over recent decades, experts have produced highly detailed criteria that are codified in national and international radiation protection standards, but these seem to have “impeded our ability to respond to simple questions from the public whom we are charged with protecting”, Mr Jammal said. “Not answering these questions would further reduce the credibility, not only of experts, but also of authorities and organisations responsible for protecting the public.”

More specifically, participants at the conference noted that there is confusion arising from the misinterpretation and misuse of the 1 mSv/y dose limit. During the debate, experts expressed the need for a review of the reasoning behind and the validity of this dose limit.

Mr Jammal also called on IAEA member states to commit to reviewing and taking the necessary actions to address lessons arising from the assessment of emergency preparedness and the response to the Fukushima-Daiichi accident.

He called on contracting parties to the Convention on Nuclear Safety to report on the implementation of lessons learned. “Moreover, I recommend that all contracting parties use the peer review process of the convention to ensure continuous enhancement of emergency preparedness and response to nuclear and radiological emergencies,” he said.

Member states should consider harmonised emergency arrangements and regulatory reviews that seek to identify and resolve potential conflicts, Mr Jammal said. The establishment of a unified command system – onsite and offsite – and the conduct of joint exercises, would better coordinate safety and security aspects of the response.

He said the IAEA should continue to develop guidance on the termination of a nuclear or radiological emergency and the transition to recovery, which should include guidance for adapting and lifting protective actions.

During the conference, it was recognised that there is a need for “a holistic approach” when implementing a protection strategy. Challenges and issues were raised regarding the lack of guidance for the termination of a nuclear or radiological emergency and the transition to recovery, including remediation.

Mr Jammal said nuclear safety has been strengthened since the March 2011 Fukushima-Daiichi accident and while many observations and lessons learned have already been transformed into regulatory improvements, much remains to be done.

He said: “It is incumbent on regulators, operators, and national, international and intergovernmental organisations to implement these recommendations and to report on the progress made.”

He recommended that the IAEA organise another conference on emergency preparedness and response where member states can report on their implementation of the recommendations.

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