How can institutional experts and civil society prepare today to work together in the (unlikely) event of a major accident leading to large radioactive releases? This was the key question discussed at the NERIS workshop held in Bordeaux (southwestern France) in mid-September 2013.
The workshop drew some fifty participants – including many local stakeholders and several experts from IRSN – at the initiative of the French National Association of Local Information Committees and Commissions (ANCCLI), the Local Information Commission (CLI) of Le Blayais and the European research platform, NERIS (European Preparedness for Nuclear and Radiological Emergency Situations platform).
The NERIS platform is made up of 49 organizations from all over Europe: public authorities, scientific organizations and regional stakeholders. It is a Europe-wide framework for sharing experience on regional readiness for dealing with a post-accident situation, and for identifying R&D priorities. The workshop held in September initiated discussions about post-accident preparedness activities in progress in France and other European countries, with feedback on this topic from Norway and Japan providing ample food for thought.
One of the main conclusions drawn is that scientific expertise in radiation protection is only one aspect involved in restoring living conditions in a contaminated territory. Experts need to be prepared to deal with concrete issues affecting economic and social continuity in the territories concerned, such as the availability of food and public transport, which may be impaired by radiation fears. Initiatives aimed at increasing awareness and mobilizing local stakeholders today, when there is no emergency, need to be strengthened in order to help them identify the challenges that come with this type of situation. The development of tools to visualize the impacts of accidental contamination on a specific region, such as the OPAL tool developed jointly by IRSN and ANCCLI, was heralded as a good means of supporting this mobilization.