• Preparedness for Nuclear Disasters

Preparedness for Nuclear Disasters

Based on the experiences and lessons of the relief activities conducted in Fukushima Prefecture during the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami and the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident (Fukushima Daiichi accident), the Japanese Red Cross Society (JRCS) has prepared for possible future nuclear disasters. This webpage explains the background and the preparedness.

1. Background of the preparedness


The JRCS has prepared for nuclear disasters which might occur in the future. The reasons behind it are as follows:

  • Experience during the Fukushima Daiichi accident and lessons learned;
  • The Red Cross mission and legal basis for the JRCS to respond to nuclear disasters;
  • Perspective of global nuclear power generation;
  • Resolution adopted at the General Assembly of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
  • Experience during the Fukushima Daiichi accident and lessons learned;
  • The Red Cross mission and legal basis for the JRCS to respond to nuclear disasters;
  • Perspective of global nuclear power generation;
  • Resolution adopted at the General Assembly of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

(1)Experience during the Fukushima Daiichi accident and lessons learned
When the Fukushima Daiichi accident occurred in March 2011 in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami, JRCS relief teams dispatched to Fukushima from other prefectures were conducting their relief activities in Fukushima Prefecture. However, the nuclear accident forced them to temporarily leave Fukushima. Not enough activities were provided by the JRCS in Fukushima.

The main reasons for that were: the lack of knowledge about radiation; the lack of radiation protective equipment/materials; and the lack of standards for relief activities in a radiation environment. Based on these lessons, the JRCS recognized the importance of preparedness for nuclear disasters.

Reference: Relief Activities by the JRCS - After the outset of the Fukushima Daiichi accident -

(2)The Red Cross mission and legal basis for the JRCS to respond to nuclear disasters
To accomplish the Red Cross mission of humanity, the JRCS thinks that it should also provide relief to survivors in the event of a nuclear disaster.

The Basic Act on Disaster Control Measures stipulates the JRCS as a “designated public corporation.” This means that the JRCS is required to make its own plan for disaster prevention, cooperate with the national and local governments to respond to disasters based on the plan and minimize the damage.

The Act on Special Measures concerning Nuclear Emergency Preparedness states that the JRCS, a designated public corporation, is required to respond to a nuclear disaster by cooperating with related organizations (e.g. Japanese government, local governments, nuclear power operators, and other designated public corporations).

Therefore, the JRCS thinks that it has a responsibility to respond to nuclear disasters.

(3)Perspective of global nuclear power generation
The IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) estimates that the world’s nuclear power generation will increase by about 2.4% at the minimum and by about 68% at the maximum by 2030. This estimate is equivalent to an increase of 9 - 256 nuclear power reactors (power level of a reactor: 1 million kW). East Asia is especially expected to see a sharp increase. There are some countries that are planning to introduce nuclear power plants. Under these circumstances, the JRCS thinks that preparedness for contingencies is a responsibility of a National Society of a country that experienced a nuclear accident.

(4)Resolution adopted at the General Assembly of the IFRC
At the 18th General Assembly held in November 2011 in Geneva, the IFRC adopted a resolution on "preparedness to respond to the humanitarian consequences of nuclear accidents." This resolution includes a description that the IFRC and National Societies should play roles in relief of survivors affected by nuclear disasters. Based on this resolution, the JRCS made a determination to address preparedness for possible future nuclear disasters.

2. JRCS’s nuclear disaster preparedness


The JRCS’s nuclear disaster preparedness has four pillars: (1) ensuring the safety of JRCS responders; (2) strengthening the structure for nuclear disaster response; (3) education/training for its staff; and (4) gathering/disseminating information. To promote the preparedness, the JRCS established the Red Cross Nuclear Disaster Resource Center (NDRC). The NDRC has facilitated developing “Manual for Relief Activities under Nuclear Disasters” (Manual) and “Nuclear Disaster Guidelines for Preparedness, Response and Recovery” (Guidelines) in cooperation with related departments of the JRCS National Headquarters, JRCS chapters and Japanese Red Cross (JRC) hospitals, and shared information on the past nuclear disasters via the NDRC Digital Archives.

Reference: Nuclear Disaster Guidelines

(1)Ensuring the safety of JRCS responders
In order to appropriately respond to nuclear disasters which might happen in the future, the JRCS has clearly defined a code of conduct in the Manual and the Guidelines. For example, in the event of a nuclear disaster, JRCS relief teams conduct relief activities outside “restricted areas” designated by the national and local governments, and a cumulative radiation dose limit for each relief team member during an activity period is set at 1mSv or less.

Furthermore, in order to prepare for ensuring the safety of the responders, the JRCS has provided radiation protective equipment/materials to the National Headquarters, JRCS block representative chapters* and all chapters. The provided items are: digital personal dosimeters (for measuring radiation exposure dose of each responder); ionization box type survey meters (for measuring air dose rate in activity areas); GM survey meters (for measuring body-surface contamination; and protective suits (for preventing radioactive materials from entering the bodies).

* The JRCS chapters and facilities are divided into six blocks (zones). Some types of radiation protective equipment/materials were provided to only block representative chapters.

(2)Strengthening the structure for nuclear disaster response
In order to prepare for possible future nuclear disasters, the JRCS is strengthening the structure to respond to nuclear disasters and the collaboration with related organizations in Japan and abroad.

As well as in the event of natural disaster, if a large-scale disaster has occurred or is likely to occur, the JRCS sets up headquarters of disaster control (HDC) at the National Headquarters and a JRCS chapter in the affected area to start relief activities. In addition, if it is a nuclear disaster, the JRCS dispatches “radiation emergency medical care advisors” (REMC advisors) to the National Headquarters and the affected chapter prior to sending JRCS relief teams to the affected area.

Some physicians and radiological technologists working at JRC hospitals designated as radiation emergency hospitals or other related JRC hospitals have been appointed as REMC advisors. Based on the status of a nuclear accident and information about the environment of JRCS activity areas, the REMC advisors give the HDCs advice about a course of action and ensuring the safety of JRCS responders.

The JRCS is cooperating with the IFRC, the national and local governments, international organizations and specialized organizations/research institutions in Japan and abroad to strengthen its structure for nuclear disaster response.

Reference: Nuclear & Radiological Emergency Preparedness by the IFRC (Timeline)

(3)Education/training for nuclear disaster response
In order to respond to nuclear disasters, education and training of staff is essential. For the purpose of developing radiation experts who play an important role in responding to a nuclear disaster and offering them opportunities to share information, the JRCS organizes the “Meeting of Radiation Emergency Medical Care Advisors.” On the other hand, for JRCS relief team members who are physicians, nurses, radiological technologists and administrative staff working at JRC hospitals and other staff members of JRCS chapters throughout Japan, the JRCS holds the “National Red Cross Relief Team Seminar” and the “JRCS Nuclear Disaster Response Basic Training Session.”

Training for JRCS relief team members

National Red Cross Relief Team Seminar: The purpose of the “National Red Cross Relief Team Seminar” is to develop relief team members who are able to provide medical response to an acute disaster phase by making use of JRCS‘s medical resources for disaster response. The program includes lectures, group discussions and practicing to learn disaster medicine and skills necessary for response during an acute phase (e.g. triage, setting up of first aid stations, logistics and how to use equipment and materials).

JRCS Nuclear Disaster Response Basic Training Session: The purpose of the “JRCS Nuclear Disaster Response Basic Training Session” is to allow JRCS relief teams to engage in relief activities safely and with ease in a radiation environment. The program includes lectures, group discussions and practicing to learn:

  • basic knowledge about radiation, radiation protection and radiation emergency medicine;
  • how to use radiation protection equipment and materials;
  • dose management during relief activities, etc.
  • basic knowledge about radiation, radiation protection and radiation emergency medicine;
  • how to use radiation protection equipment and materials;
  • dose management during relief activities, etc.

Meeting of Radiation Emergency Medical Care Advisors
JRCS Nuclear Disaster Response Basic Training Session

(4)Gathering/disseminating information on nuclear disasters
When the Fukushima Daiichi accident happened, the JRCS had no code of conduct/safety standard for relief activities in the event of a nuclear disaster and not enough knowledge and information about nuclear disasters. This led to limitations in JRCS relief activities at that time.

The JRCS thought that preparedness for nuclear disasters would be necessary and it would be important to externally disseminate information obtained through its activities and experiences during the Fukushima Daiichi accident. Based on this thought, the JRCS established the NDRC in its National Headquarters in October 2013. At the same time, the Digital Archives was launched as a tool for fulfilling the purpose of disseminating information. To share information on nuclear disasters with people inside/outside the JRCS, some special webpages have been created and presented on the Digital Archives, and “Red Cross Nuclear Disaster Seminars” have been organized and held by the JRCS.

3. IFRC preparedness for nuclear and radiological emergencies


The IFRC adopted a resolution on “preparedness to respond to the humanitarian consequences of nuclear accidents” at the 18th General Assembly in November 2011, which was held after the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami and the Fukushima Daiichi accident occurred in March 2011. Following the resolution, the IFRC prepared “Nuclear and Radiological Emergency Preparedness and Response Guidelines” and also developed support tools to assist with building the preparedness arrangements of each National Society.

The IFRC’s e-learning program is a web-based learning platform developed by the IFRC. Registration is needed to use the platform. Once logged in, the user can choose learning courses. For example, a course about the basics of nuclear emergency preparedness allows the user to learn in a role of an international delegate who will be deployed as emergency health staff into a disaster to support the National Society. Please click on the banner “Learning platform” below.

learning-platform
www.ifrc.org/learning-platform/