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International Conference on Global Emergency President' Summary

Ramzi Jammal

President of the International Conference on Global Emergency Preparedness and Response

Executive Vice-President and Chief Regulatory Operations Officer - Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission

The International Conference on Global Emergency Preparedness and Response was organized by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), in cooperation with 13 international intergovernmental organizations. As President of this conference, I consider that we were successful in achieving its objectives.   

The conference was attended by over 420 participants. Attendees comprised regulators, national emergency planners and responders from 82 Member States, 18 international intergovernmental organizations, and other relevant stakeholders. The large number of participants is a testament to the commitment of the international community to global emergency preparedness and response.

Stemming from the fact that nuclear and radiological events might occur with a potential impact on the public and the environment, the keynote speakers, presenters, chairs and participants contributed to productive discussions. The key technical areas important to strengthening national and international nuclear and radiological emergency preparedness and response were addressed through exchanges of the latest information and opinions on the pillars of emergency management comprising protection strategies; communications; public health and medical response; international cooperation; and education and training. Lessons learned from past emergencies were taken into account in determining the way forward and priorities.

As a result of the discussions at this conference, I will make six recommendations for further improvement. The implementation of these recommendations will require dedicated commitment at the national and international levels. I strongly encourage decision makers, relevant authorities and organizations to determine how these recommendations apply to them, decide how they will move forward with their implementation and commit to sharing the results once their implementation is completed.

Recommendation 1: Defining “What is safe?”

During the conference, participants identified the need for relevant authorities and organizations to respond to the question, “What is safe?”, based on scientific evidence and reasoning in clear, plain language.

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

More specifically, participants 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.

I recommend that the IAEA develop, in consultation with international intergovernmental organizations, a framework to deal with the underlying question, “What is safe?”, including a review of the reasoning behind this dose limit.

Recommendation 2: Communicating with the public

There was a consensus among conference participants on the importance of risk communication and the need to develop methods for communicating risks to the public during both the emergency preparedness activities as well as following a nuclear or radiological emergency. 

I recommend that the IAEA develop, through the new Emergency Preparedness and Response Standards Committee, communication material to be used by decision makers, relevant authorities and organizations for providing scientifically based information to the public on issues relating to nuclear or radiological emergencies. This 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.  

Recommendation 3: Implementing observations and lessons from the IAEA report on the Fukushima Daiichi accident

During the conference, discussions were held on observations and lessons arising from the assessment of emergency preparedness and the response to the Fukushima Daiichi accident. These observations and lessons were in the IAEA report, The Fukushima Daiichi Accident. I encourage all Member States to commit to reviewing and taking the necessary actions to address these observations and lessons.

I recommend that Contracting Parties to the Convention on Nuclear Safety report on the implementation of these observations and lessons through their national reports for the 7th Review Meeting. 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.

Recommendation 4: Integrating nuclear safety and nuclear security in emergency preparedness and response

Nuclear safety and nuclear security have the common objectives of protecting human life and health, hence the need to discuss their integration during an emergency. I recommend that the IAEA continue to implement activities to further promote integration of nuclear safety and nuclear security aspects in emergency preparedness and response.

Member States should also take proactive steps towards the effective integration of safety and security aspects in emergency preparedness and response. These steps should include considerations for harmonized emergency arrangements and regulatory reviews that seek to identify and resolve potential conflicts. 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.

Recommendation 5: Developing international guidance for the transition phase

During the conference, it was recognized 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.

To address this issue, I recommend that the IAEA 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.

Recommendation 6: Enhancing international cooperation and building capacity

International cooperation is fundamental in achieving harmonized emergency preparedness and response arrangements and in building capacity in Member States.

The need for harmonization of protection strategies and communication among countries, particularly neighbouring countries, and possible ways of achieving it, was a topic of active discussions. Broad compliance with the international safety standards in emergency preparedness and response was identified as a key step to achieving harmonization.

I recommend that arrangements for improving consultations and the sharing of information among Member States on protective actions be strengthened through the framework of the IAEA relating to emergency preparedness and response.

I also recommend that Member States educate and train their emergency planners and responders, including medical professionals, utilizing material available in international safety standards, and that they perform exercises, including at the regional and international level.

Main conclusions of the conference

Enhancing nuclear safety is an ongoing process. Nuclear safety has been strengthened since the Fukushima Daiichi accident. However, defining actions and deliverables from the observations and lessons on emergency preparedness and response from the IAEA report on the accident is a must. While many of these observations and lessons have already been transformed into regulatory improvements, much remains to be done.

This summary provides reasonable and achievable recommendations aimed at continuing improvements to emergency preparedness and response to a nuclear or radiological emergency.

It is incumbent on regulators, operators, and national, international and intergovernmental organizations to implement these recommendations and to report on the progress made.

In view of the value of this conference, I recommend that the IAEA organize another conference on emergency preparedness and response where Member States can report on their implementation of the recommendations.

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