News & Analysis

Global nuclear emergency response to be tested

26th October 2021
Louis Regnier

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will conduct a two-day international exercise to test the global emergency response system for a severe accident simulated at the UAE’s Barakah nuclear power plant.

During the 26th to 27th October 2021 exercise, 75 Member States and 12 international organisations will participate to evaluate their emergency response actions in order to identify good practices and highlight areas that need improvement.

The IAEA will join the Member States and international organisations in supporting the UAE in response to the fictional scenario involving the Barakah nuclear power plant. They will test the implementation of emergency plans and procedures, bilateral agreements and international arrangements.

Such so-called Level 3 Convention Exercises (ConvEx-3) are organised every three to five years to test international emergency response arrangements. The practice is based on 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 exercise was was held in 2017 in cooperation with Hungary.

The IAEA’s specific exercise objectives are to evaluate the effectiveness of its Incident and Emergency System. This system incorporates communication with the “Accident State”, in this case, the UAE, other Member States, the press and the public. The system covers arrangements for assessment and prognosis of an emergency as well as the provision of international assistance.

The current exercise scenario was developed by the UAE in collaboration with the Inter-Agency Committee on Radiological and Nuclear Emergencies (IACRNE). The IAEA coordinates ICARNE, which is composed of 18 international organisations.

The UAE completed construction of its first nuclear power plant at the Barakah site in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi in 2018. The first reactor was successfully connected to the grid in 2020 and the plant is planned to hold four 1,400 MW pressurised water reactors. The IAEA conducted an Emergency Preparedness Review (EPREV) mission to UAE in 2019. This review focused on assessing UAE’s emergency preparedness and response (or EPR) arrangements against IAEA safety standards.

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