New IAEA Guidance in Emergency Preparedness and Response

How do you create a national strategy to protect people in a nuclear or radiological emergency based on lessons learned, scientific evidence and good practices? A new IAEA publication, Considerations in the Development of a Protection Strategy for a Nuclear or Radiological Emergency provides the concepts and practical considerations needed to build that protection strategy.
“The publication is universally adaptable and addresses the different aspects of an emergency from the direct radiological consequences to protecting against non-radiological aspects, which are decisive for an effective response,” said Svetlana Nestoroska Madjunarova, former counsellor in monitoring and emergency at the North Macedonian Radiation Safety Directorate and author of the publication.
Five main topics are covered in the publication: the concept of a protection strategy for a nuclear or radiological emergency, the basis and process for the development of a protection strategy, processes for justifying and optimizing protection and safety and consultation with interested parties. These five topics provide guidance to those planning a protection strategy, the underlying concepts and they also provide practical guidance on implementation in alignment with the IAEA safety standards and the goals of emergency response as defined in General Safety Requirement Part 7.
The publication also provides an outline for national protection strategies to support national efforts to develop justified and optimised plans to protect health and minimize danger to life and property during and following a nuclear or radiological emergency, as well as specific guidance for the effective, optimal implementation of the strategy in emergency response.
Protection measures should be based on scientifically justified methods and applied only when observations in the field indicate action is necessary. In this manner, maximum protection can be provided with minimum social and economic disruption. Justification in emergency response means taking diverse factors into account to achieve more good than harm. Optimization is a process that applies the resources at hand in the most effective manner to provide the best protection during an emergency.
Core objective
The guidance addresses both the early stages of the emergency response and the subsequent return to normality in the affected areas, while also touching on environmental, economic and other consequences. These considerations, previously addressed in separate publications, are now gathered for the first time in this unified volume.
“Effective emergency response planning requires a holistic approach that addresses all the issues arising during and following an emergency, not solely the initial consequences of the nuclear or radiological emergency,” said David Owen, expert from the United Kingdom on the publication drafting group.
The publication reflects the latest safety requirements and recommendations in emergency preparedness and response and supports their implementation.
“The eventual return to normality following an emergency is an important consideration in the protection strategy,” Madjunarova said. “Countries may expect that in this post-emergency period there is enough time to acquire the relevant social, economic and radiological information needed to make optimal decisions. Lessons learned show that a comprehensive strategy is essential in making and implementing those decisions in a timely manner.”
The publication also offers practical advice on the possible transboundary consequences of a nuclear or radiological emergency to identify potential hazards to aid cooperation with all countries that may be affected by such events to ensure effective and consistent protection of the affected populations and the environment across borders.

IAEA Tool for Self-Assessment of National Nuclear and Radiation Safety Infrastructure Now Available Online

The IAEA has launched a web-based version of its self-assessment tool — eSARIS — with additional features and advanced functionalities to support Member States in assessing their nuclear and radiation safety framework, to either strengthen the national regulatory infrastructure or in preparation for an IAEA Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) mission.

“eSARIS allows multiple users across different organizations in a Member State to work together more effectively, as they can view and edit information simultaneously,” said Teodros Hailu, IAEA Radiation Safety Specialist and eSARIS technical officer. “Users can also use charts to monitor their self-assessment progress and the new tool provides the opportunity of tracking changes made to information provided.”

eSARIS is a new version of the IAEA Self-Assessment of Regulatory Infrastructure for Safety (SARIS). SARIS was originally launched in 2013 and is regularly updated in line with the development of IAEA safety requirements. eSARIS now provides users with easy and secure online access, and acts as a shared online platform for all users within a country.

The SARIS methodology, used by staff of regulatory bodies, technical services provider organizations, facilities using radiation sources and government entities, is based on a structure of questions that promotes the objective evaluation of current safety framework, processes and related activities, and enables Member States to devise a continuous improvement plan for their national safety infrastructure.

Conducting self-assessment using SARIS is a preparatory requirement for IAEA Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) missions, a peer review service of regulatory framework for Member States to strengthen and enhance the effectiveness of their regulatory infrastructure.

User-friendly features

The new eSARIS was developed in response to feedback from Member States and allows regulatory bodies to modify the scope of their self-assessment. Since it is accessed via the IAEA Nucleus system, existing Nucleus account holders will benefit from single sign-on, while eSARIS also guarantees users a high level of restricted access and security.

Isabel Villanueva Delgado, Head of the General Secretary’s Cabinet at the Spanish Nuclear Safety Council (CSN), who was involved in the development stage of the tool, said: “eSARIS systematically guides on how to implement the self-assessment plan; organize roles and responsibilities; develop an action plan for improvement in line with updated IAEA safety standards; and create a repository of information and evidence, which could prove beneficial in the short and long term.”

Richard Ndi Samba, Director of Regulation and Regulatory Control at the National Radiation Protection Agency (NRPA) in Cameroon and also involved in the development process, added that “the updated tool provides an easy interface to communicate with IAEA technical officers, which allows country counterparts to quickly identify areas of performance improvement.”

eSARIS also includes other components, such as the Integrated Review of Infrastructure for Safety (IRIS) tool, which provides for a comprehensive and targeted self-assessment in line with the IAEA Specific Safety Guide SSG-16 (Rev. 1) on the establishment of a national safety infrastructure for a nuclear power programme.

IAEA Develops New Benchmarks for Computational Methods for Utilization, Operation and Safety Analysis of Research Reactors

Under a recently completed IAEA project, experts have developed a benchmark database for computational methods and tools used for the utilization, operation and safety analysis of research reactors.
A benchmark in this context is an experiment conducted in a research reactor, including the measured data and sufficient details about the research reactor and the experimental facility.
“The benchmark allows modelling the experiment using a computer code,” said Frances Marshall, the lead officer of the four-year IAEA coordinated research project (CRP). “The results of the calculations are compared with the data to assess whether the code and the modelling done are adequate for the case under study.”
Benchmarking computational codes and methods against experimental data is key to assessing the validity of the codes’ application to the design, operation, utilization and safety analysis of research reactors.
The benchmarks can be used to:
- train new professionals in research reactors by allowing them to develop their modelling skills using well-documented cases (benchmarks);
- improve modelling requiring advanced code functions and user knowledge;
- conduct formal validation of codes, models or user qualifications.
The CRP benchmarked many of the most common research reactor codes used at international level, and demonstrated that the codes, methods and the nuclear data available yield results that, in the majority of cases, meet the operational requirements of research reactor facilities.
The collected data will be used to update the IAEA’s Research Reactor Benchmarking Database: Facility Specification and Experimental Data, which is a valuable resource for assisting the optimization of research reactor core management and experimental programmes, while maintaining safety.
The project was carried out by several research reactor operating organizations with ongoing irradiation and measurement activities in fuel burnup and material and target activation. The participants provided experimental data and research reactor facility specifications covering a broad range of research reactor types and power levels. The quality of the data was assessed by an independent review to confirm its use as benchmarks, leading to the establishment of 14 benchmark specifications using data from nine different research reactors. Calculations were then made by at least two participants for each of the benchmarks, using a wealth of codes, leading to a total of 53 analysis contributions.
The overall objective of the CRP was to encourage cooperation, foster the exchange of information and increase the knowledge and expertise in numerical analysis to improve the design, operation, utilization, safety and decommissioning of research reactors, in particular in fuel multicycle depletion analysis, and material and target activation calculations.