International Framework for Emergency Preparedness and Response to Radiation Emergencies: Capabilities & Gaps

R. Martincic PhD, E. Buglova PhD DrSci, F. Baciu PhD
Incident and Emergency Centre
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
Vienna, Austria


Many different types of nuclear activities and practices involving radioactive material and/or sources of ionising radiation are conducted within the jurisdiction of individual States. Despite extensive precautions, radiation events can occur that may affect the public, workers, patients or the environment. These events can range from extremely rare severe accidents in nuclear power plants with serious widespread and persistent consequences to events that can happen from time to time with low radiological consequences but nevertheless have safety implications and can often excite considerable media and public interest and concern, even severe distress and anxiety.

Independent of whether a radiation event arises from an accident, negligence or a deliberate act, the response to events with apparent, potential or suspected radiological consequences requires efficient and coordinated efforts to (1) prevent deterministic effects, (2) restrict the likelihood of stochastic effects, (3) minimize the overall radiological impact in terms of environmental contamination and general disruption and endeavours to restore normality, and (4) prevent, to the extent practicable, the occurrence of non-radiological effects. In addition, for the case of the release of radioactive material resulting from a malicious act, it is important to ensure proper collection of evidence to support prosecutions.

The responsibility for responding to all the aforementioned cases and for public and environmental protection remains within the jurisdiction of the individual State. However, the resources and capabilities of States could be exceeded in an emergency. Thus, effective emergency preparedness and response also requires communication and cooperation among States and international organizations to ensure a harmonized response to nuclear or radiological emergencies.

The paper will present the international emergency preparedness and response framework, its capabilities and gaps and some lessons identified in response to the Fukushima accident.