An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Emergency Preparedness Review (EPREV) has concluded a five-day follow-up mission to review the emergency preparedness and response framework for nuclear and radiological emergencies in Hungary.

The mission, carried out at the request of the Hungarian government, focused on assessing emergency preparedness and response (EPR) arrangements in light of recommendations made in an initial EPREV mission in 2016.

Chris Dijkens, former Director International Enforcement Cooperation at the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment of the Netherlands, led the seven-person review team, which included experts from Canada, France, Germany, Portugal and two experts from the IAEA.

Hungary generates half of its electricity from four reactors at the Paks Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) and is planning to build another two reactors at the same site. The country also operates two research reactors, an isotope production facility, a national radioactive waste repository, and uses high activity radiation sources in industrial, medical and research applications.

“Hungary has addressed the recommendations from the initial EPREV mission and taken significant steps to improve its preparedness for nuclear and radiological emergencies, said Dijkens. “For example, the country has developed both an annual and a long-term training programme for various emergency workers and it has also published a protection strategy for such emergencies.”

In Budapest, the review team met with counterparts at the Hungarian Atomic Energy Authority, and visited the Ministry of Interior’s National Directorate General for Disaster Management and Agroster, a facility that uses irradiation to sterilise food products and packaging. The team also visited two emergency operations centres, one of which is a backup emergency centre, located just outside of the Paks NPP, about 130 km south of Budapest.

The EPREV team identified strengths in Hungary’s EPR framework, including:

  • A strong commitment to nuclear and radiological emergency preparedness, reflected in the efforts to improve the country’s emergency arrangements.
  • A comprehensive annual training and exercise plan, and a long-term training plan for the Hungarian Nuclear Emergency Response System.
  • Enhanced requirements to ensure operators are well-prepared to mitigate consequences under their responsibility in case of an emergency at their site.

“After the first EPREV mission conducted in 2016, one practical example of implementation of the international legal EPR framework was shown when Hungary hosted the 2017 ConvEx-3 full scale nuclear emergency response exercise. This follow-up mission demonstrated substantial progress in the practical integration of the IAEA’s safety standards in the Hungarian emergency preparedness and response framework,” said Carlos Torres Vidal, Director of the IAEA’s Incident and Emergency Centre.

The team also made suggestions to further strengthen EPR arrangements, including to:

  • Finalise the analysis of the National Nuclear Emergency Response Plan and the assessment of its adherence to IAEA safety standards.
  • Enhance coordination at the national level, to ensure first responders are equipped with detectors to identify radiological conditions they may face during their duty, enabling them to respond effectively.
  • Ensure increased awareness among general medical practitioners to recognise symptoms of acute radiation exposure.

“The EPREV mission in 2016 paved the way for the creation of an action plan to strengthen Hungary’s emergency preparedness and response system. The follow-up mission highlighted our efforts in its implementation and reinforced commitment in further developments,” said Andrea Beatrix Kádár, President of the Hungarian Atomic Energy Authority.

Image: IAEA head Rafael Mariano Grossi with HAEA head Andrea Beatrix Kádár (photo courtesy of IAEA)