In the event of a radiological emergency, the ability of the emergency expert teams to respond rapidly and successfully deploy field resources matching the specificity of the radiological situation in question is an essential key success factor. To ensure excellence in preparedness, IRSN has put its expert teams to the test since the beginning of 2014 in three separate field drills that simulate major emergency situations.
The first 2014 drill was designed primarily to test how well IRSN and the Civil defense teams of the French Ministry of the Interior can coordinate their mobile measurement resources and to demonstrate IRSN's ability to dispatch heavy technical equipment to the area within a short period of time and then to interface efficiently with civil defense external decontamination chains, which operate upstream of IRSN’s internal exposure monitoring protocols for potential victims of contamination.
This drill, which was the first opportunity to test some of the protocols of France's new National Emergency Response Plan for "Major Radiological or Nuclear Accidents" recently adopted by the government, allowed testing IRSN's capability to handle about a thousand persons a day in the selected configuration.
In June, a second drill was run to assess the capabilities of IRSN's test laboratories to receive and rapidly analyze large quantities of potentially highly contaminated samples taken from the environment during an accident situation. The results of this will be used to define in greater detail the Institute's operational organization for this type of monitoring, which requires specific precautions in light of the risks of contamination in transport and at the laboratories, and of exposure of personnel.
Also in June, IRSN held another drill, involving all of its mobile resources designed for in situ environmental analysis. These can be used to check as rapidly as possible for the absence of contamination in an area neighboring a site affected by a radiological accident. The drill validated the deployment of all equipment and tested a new allocation of tasks between team members, demonstrating the capability to analyze up to 400 samples per day.