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Swiss Nuclear Regulator Calls For Off-site Emergency Response Centres

ensi_logoHaving already improved on-site emergency protection measures, Switzerland’s Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate (ENSI) is now ordering nuclear power plant operators to ensure that off-site measures are also boosted.

ENSI said that, after reading reports submitted by the plant operators, it has identified potential improvements that should be made to local, off-site emergency response. These, it said, fall into five areas: emergency response centres; the availability of emergency equipment; the protection of workers; communications; and the availability of trained staff.

The regulator called for plant operators to plan for external emergency response centres. “In addition to emergency management personnel on the site of the facility, local response outside the perimeter of the nuclear plant should be made available,” ENSI said. “The response staff should therefore be able to work safely and effectively in the worst conditions. In addition, we must have as few staff as possible, but as many as necessary in the system for the management of an emergency.” It said that the usefulness of such a centre and planning the movement of staff will be considered as part of an exercise in 2016.

The necessary equipment for staff to respond to an emergency should be kept in a suitable off-site location, ENSI said. By the end of 2015, it expects operators to document how they will achieve this.

George Piller, head of ENSI’s department for radiation protection, noted: “In the event of an emergency at a nuclear plant, it is not only the population that must be protected – staff must also be.” As such, by the end of 2016, ENSI requires operators to have in place a system for monitoring not only radiation but also toxic gases in on-site air.

ENSI also noted that communication tools are essential for the management and coordination of emergency response. It calls for operators to ensure that a back-up communication system that can operate “under worse conditions” is available.

Piller said, “Technology plays an important role in an emergency. However, there must be enough qualified staff to manage an emergency.” ENSI therefore requires that radiation protection equipment is available off-site for specialized staff.

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