ENEA’s Role in the Italian Participation to IAEA’s RANET
Early in 1986, Italy signed the two principal international conventions on nuclear and radiological emergencies, the Convention on the Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident, and the Convention on Assistance in Case of a Nuclear Accident or Radiological Emergency (known simpler as the “Assistance Convention”). The Italian Regulatory Body, the National Inspectorate for Nuclear Safety and Radiation Protection (ISIN), acts, together with the Department for Civil Protection, as national competent authority and contact point with IAEA as far as matters concerning the two above-mentioned conventions.
In September 2000, the General Conference of the IAEA (resolution GC(44)/RES/16) encouraged Member States “to implement instruments for improving their response, in particular their contribution to international response, to nuclear and radiological emergencies” as well as “to participate actively in the process of strengthening international, national and regional capabilities for responding to nuclear and radiological emergencies and to make those capabilities more consistent and coherent”. As part of the IAEA’s strategy of supporting the practical implementation of the Assistance Convention, in 2000 IAEA established a global Emergency Response Network (ERNET) of teams suitably qualified to respond to nuclear or radiological emergencies rapidly and, in principle, on a regional basis. Later, in 2005, ERNET evolved into the nowadays Response and Assistance Network, RANET, a network for providing international assistance, upon request from a State, following a nuclear or radiological emergency, regardless of its origin. States participating in RANET are responsible for identifying expertise, equipment and materials that could be made available to assist another State in a nuclear or radiological emergency. The expertise, equipment and materials comprise the State’s National Assistance Capabilities (NACs) that can be activated to provide assistance either by deployment to the scene or from an external base.
In January 2023 Italy registered National Assistance Capabilities, offered by ENEA, in seven of the eight RANET functional areas, namely: Radiation Survey (RS), Source Search and Recovery (SSR), Nuclear Installation Assessment and Advice (NAA), Radiological Assessment and Advice (RAA), Decontamination (DE), Dose Assessment (DA), and Sampling Analysis (SA). The NACs within the first five functional areas are provided by the Department for Fusion and Technologies for Nuclear Safety and Security (FSN), while those of last two functional areas are provided by the Institute for Radiation Protection (IRP). Some of these NACs are provided as reach-back offer (so-called EBS), while others are of the on-the-field type (so-called FAT).
A nation-wide procedure of coordination between ISIN and ENEA has been drafted, that prescribes activation mechanisms to respond to requests for assistance. Additionally, a first ENEA internal activation procedure, corresponding to QA Procedure 05 of the IAEA EPR-RANET-2018 Reference Manual, has been drafted too.
Both procedures were tested in early September, when Italy participated to a ConvEx-2B exercise organized by IAEA to offer testing and self-evaluation possibilities to RANET participating countries. The table-top exercise, carried out over 3 days, proved to be of great value in terms of lessons-learned and of identification of aspects in need of further improvement.
With the registration of RANET NACs, Italy strengthens its contribution to increase the global nuclear safety regime and provides additional geographical coverage of international assistance provisions in case of radiological or nuclear emergencies.