The UAE is Uniquely Prepared for Nuclear or Radiological Emergencies

Oct 10, 2022

There is no doubt that Covid-19 pandemic was a challenge for everyone: since the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared in March 2021 a pandemic, hence triggering a global lock-down and affecting every-day life. The nuclear industry felt the impact worldwide, and in the UAE it was resilient in many aspects and especially in terms of emergency preparedness and readiness to address a nuclear or radiological emergency in such uncertain times.

Preparing for nuclear or radiological emergencies is not a single agency undertaking. If history has taught us anything over the past decades it is that local and regional collaboration and coordination along with international cooperation are essential elements of ensuring the safety of the public, workers and the environment.

At its core, preparing for nuclear or radiological emergencies is a nationwide exercise in inter-agency collaboration, continuous improvement, and regular testing and monitoring, in addition to the development of international partnerships and knowledge sharing agreements that allow regulatory authorities and other stakeholders around the world to share best practices and technical data.

In September of 2009 the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR) was established as the UAE's independent regulatory body for the nuclear sector. As part of its expansive remit, FANR is responsible for overseeing the UAE's first Nuclear Power Programme where the country is building a four-unit nuclear power station. It is also responsible for licensing the more than 2500 organizations that utilize various types of radiation sources as a part of their operations, and ensuring that all licensees prepare plans to respond to any emergency that might occur.

In addition, FANR, through its Emergency Operation Center, is responsible for independently following and assessing the actions from licensees, providing technical advice to Incident Commander and other decision-makers and liaising with the National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority (NCEMA), other relevant government entities and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). When fully activated, FANR's Emergency Operation Center is staffed by a number of specially trained FANR employees who operate around the clock in shifts.

Our work at FANR, however, is only a cog in the well-oiled machine that represents the UAE's radiological emergency preparedness. More than 30 government entities and countless personnel from first responders, environmental, medical professionals to law enforcement form a part of the UAE's plans and have undergone extensive training on how to react and address nuclear or radiological emergencies. An example of these preparations can be found in Ruwais, where members of staff at the Al Ruwais Hospital have undergone special radiological emergency training and a special new Police Nuclear Security Unit has been established as a part of the Al Dhafra Police Directorate that specializes in responding to nuclear emergency.

In the development of its programme, the UAE has benefitted from the collective experience and expertise of the international community. FANR, NCEMA, the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) and its subsidiaries, the Ministry of Interior and numerous other government entities actively engage with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and other international organizations to share knowledge and ensure the highest standards of safety, security and emergency preparedness.

The UAE routinely invites international experts from the IAEA to review the nation's emergency program. During the 2019's Emergency Preparedness Review (EPREV) Mission, the IAEA team noted the excellent cooperation of all organizations involved and the mission stated that: "The UAE has built its nuclear emergency preparedness and response program in an effective way on the basis of an already strong national infrastructure for crisis and emergency management."

In a further sign of the nation's readiness to address a nuclear emergency, the UAE hosted in 2021 the Barakah UAE Convex-3 exercise, which is organized every three to five years by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). It fully activated its emergency response centres across the country to test  its emergency preparedness and response capabilities simulating a radiological accident at the Barakah Nuclear Power Plant.  Over 76 countries, 12 international organizations and 111 laboratories took part in the exercise. The UAE, with its various stakeholders covering different sectors, desomsranted its robust emergency preparedness and response systems to address any potiencial emergency.

The UAE's commitment to inter-agency collaboration, continuous improvement, international cooperation and regular testing and monitoring, has resulted in the nation being unique prepared for radiological emergencies.

Today, the UAE acts as a leading example of how to successfully develop both a peaceful nuclear energy programme as well as a comprehensive radiological emergency preparedness and response infrastructure.

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