HERCA, the association of the Heads of European Radiological protection Competent Authorities, approves a document containing Practical proposals for further harmonisation of the reactions in European countries to any distant nuclear or radiological emergency.

On 27 June 2013, on the occasion of the 11th meeting of the association HERCA which brings together the Heads of European Radiological protection Competent Authorities, HERCA has approved the document on emergency preparedness: “Practical proposals for further harmonisation of the reactions in European countries to any distant nuclear or radiological emergency”. The aim of the report is, on the one hand, to assist radiological safety authorities to improve their preparedness in some areas and, on the other hand, to provide an overview of the important radiological issues to be considered by radiation protection authorities in the event of a nuclear or radiological emergency in a distant country.

The need for a more harmonised approach with regard to the management of nuclear and radiological emergency situations was identified as a top priority already at the inaugural meeting of HERCA in 2007. Later, the events at the Fukushima Daiichi NPP in March 2011 dramatically illustrated that similar needs for a common understanding and, whenever possible, a common approach in the field of nuclear emergency response also exist for accidents happening even at great distance from Europe.

On the occasion of the 7th meeting of HERCA (Brussels, June 2011) the HERCA Board devoted a topical session to discuss the role of HERCA on preparation for and management of nuclear emergencies and the Impact of the Fukushima accident on HERCA activities. Among the conclusions, the Board agreed on the need for harmonization and coordination of protective measures in a Fukushima-like situation at international level, and in particular within European countries in order to ensure a more balanced response. The mandate of the Working Group on emergencies (WGE) was thus extended to cover also accidents happening at more remote sites from Europe.

The approved report “Practical proposals for further harmonisation of the reactions in European countries to any distant nuclear or radiological emergency” presents the results of the works by WGE to accomplish the above mentioned mandate. It contains recommendations on how to increase the consistency of national decisions in response to a distant nuclear or radiological emergencies, information on the perception in the accident country, good practices on the communication of decisions, identification of key recommendations as well as guidance to enhance preparedness for the return of people from an affected country or region.

The WGE will continue its activities with regard to accidents originating from within the boundaries of the HERCA member countries where the overall aim of the WGE is to come up with practical and operational solutions leading to a uniform way of dealing with any serious radiological emergency situation, regardless of national borders.

The WGE has recently developed very general terms for a new approach, termed the “top down” approach. It foresees cooperation and coordination between neighbouring countries, or neighbouring territories, as the main pathway. The basic aim is to develop mechanisms for implementing protective actions during an emergency in a consistent way along national borderlines without necessarily changing fundamental national arrangements. The idea is to take the prevailing differences into account, and to elaborate ways of how to find “compromise” solutions in a given situation. At the Tenth meeting of HERCA in Paris, France, 30-31 October 2012, the Board of HERCA confirmed to the WGE that this new approach meets the overall expectations and visions of the Board. A road map for such approach is under discussion. Concrete results are expected in the near future.