International organizations in emergency preparedness and response
The Emergency Conventions assign specific response functions and responsibilities to the IAEA and the Parties, which include, in addition to a number of States, the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). However various international organizations have — by virtue of their statutory functions or of related legal instruments — general functions and responsibilities that encompass aspects of preparedness and response. Moreover, some regional organizations (e.g. the European Union) are party to legally binding treaties and have directives and regulations that bear on emergency response arrangements among some States. Finally, there are bilateral agreements between some international organizations that also have relevance to preparedness and response arrangements.
Pursuant to the obligations placed on it by the Emergency Conventions, the IAEA regularly convenes the Inter-Agency Committee on Radiological and Nuclear Emergencies (IACRNE ), whose purpose is to co-ordinate the arrangements of the relevant international intergovernmental organizations for preparing for and responding to nuclear and radiological emergencies. Currently its members are representatives from the European Commission (EC), the European Police Office (EUROPOL), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR), the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), the Nuclear Energy Agency of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD/NEA), the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN/OCHA), the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UN/OOSA), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). It is chaired by the IAEA and meets periodically. The terms of reference of IACRNE are:
- To coordinate preparedness arrangements for response to nuclear and radiological emergencies by, inter alia, developing, maintaining and exercising the "Joint Radiation Emergency Management Plan of the International Organizations’’ (Joint Plan).
- To work towards coordinated and consistent international standards on preparedness and response to nuclear and radiological emergencies, and their practical implementation in Member States and States Parties to the Conventions; and to strongly encourage its participating organizations to meet the relevant standards.
- To exchange relevant information among organizations concerning their respective plans, activities and harmonization of these plans.
- To identify new areas for interagency cooperation, to coordinate joint actions (including drills and exercises) related to preparedness and response for nuclear and radiological emergencies.
- To review the Joint Plan biennially and issues amendments as appropriate.
It is recognized by organizations responsible for emergency response that good planning in advance of an emergency can substantially improve the response. Joint Radiation Emergency Management Plan of the International Organisations(Joint Plan). The Joint Plan describes: the objectives of response; the organizations involved in response, their roles and responsibilities, and the interfaces among them and between them and States; operational concepts; and preparedness arrangements. These practical arrangements are reflected in the various organizations’ own emergency plans, e.g. the IAEA’s in-house Response Plan for Incidents and Emergencies (REPLIE) and WHO’s Radiation Emergency Medical Preparedness and Assistance Network (REMPAN) manual. The Joint Plan does not prescribe arrangements between the participating organizations, but describes a common understanding of how each organization will act during a response and in making preparedness arrangements. All States have obligations under general international law, and States which are neither party to one or other of the two Conventions nor Member States of the IAEA are invited to note that the IAEA is the main co-ordinating body for implementation of the Joint Plan. Those States are invited also to use the arrangements described in the Joint Plan when providing relevant information about nuclear or radiological emergencies, in order to minimize the transnational radiological consequences and to facilitate the prompt provision of information and assistance.
International emergency response exercises and their effective evaluation are an essential tool for improving the international emergency response arrangements. Over the past decade, many international nuclear emergency exercises have taken place, and much experience has been gained in the important fields of emergency preparedness and management. It has been recognized that coordination and joint sponsorship of international nuclear emergency exercises can reduce the total number of exercises undertaken, helping to optimize resource utilization for both national and international organizations. Coordination can also extend the scope of the objectives addressed by such exercises, and national and international participants can profit from a broad range of proposed objectives. At the same time, results and analyses can be more effectively shared. In order to more efficiently plan, conduct, analyse and share the results of international nuclear emergency exercises, the Inter-Agency Committee on Radiological and Nuclear Emergencies (IACRNE), for which the IAEA provides the Secretariat, serves as a coordination point for these activities.
The recent international exercise – ConvEx-3 (2005) - was based on the 2005 Romanian national exercise at the Cernavoda nuclear power plant (Unit 1) and took place on 11 and 12 May 2005. Sixty-two countries and 8 international organisations participated in the exercise. Exercise provided an opportunity to identify shortcomings in the national and/or international information exchange and response systems that might hamper the response aimed at minimizing the consequences of a nuclear accident. In order to perform harmonised/compatible evaluation of the exercise the IACRNE Working Group on Joint International Exercises prepared five generic exercise objectives and a common evaluation process. ConvEx-3 (2005) Exercise Report was prepared based on national exercise reports, reports from the relevant international organisations and conclusions of the Coordination Meeting of the IACRNE Working Group on Joint International Exercises.
ConvEx-3 (2008) was based on the 2008 Mexican exercise at the Laguna Verde nuclear power plant and took place on 9 and 10 July 2008. The ConvEx-3 (2008) exercise had three over-arching goals. These were to test the response of Member States and relevant international organizations in a severe nuclear accident; to test and evaluate the international emergency management system (e.g. current EPR-IEComm arrangements); and to identify good practices as well as deficiencies and areas requiring improvement that cannot be identified in national exercises. The exercise was based on a severe nuclear emergency with trans-national implications. In total, 75 Member States and ten international organizations participated.
Planning for ConvEx-3 (2012) is currently underway.
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