International Plans and Conventions
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The U.S. works with emergency response organizations in other nations to develop joint plans for responding to emergencies.
On this page:
- United States-Canada Joint Radiological Emergency Response Plan
- International Atomic Energy Agency Convention on Assistance in the Case of a Nuclear Accident or Radiological Emergency
- IAEA Convention on Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident
United States-Canada Joint Radiological Emergency Response Plan
The United States-Canada Joint Radiological Emergency Response Plan (Joint Plan) was signed on April 27, 1996 in Vancouver, British Columbia. The Joint Plan establishes the basis for a cooperative response to peacetime radiological events that involve both countries. It also applies when either country needs the other's help in responding to a potential or actual radiological event on its own soil.
The Joint Plan was developed under the umbrella of the Agreement Between the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States of America on Cooperation in Comprehensive Civil Emergency Planning and Management (1986.) The U.S./Canada Radiological Emergency Preparedness Group, of which EPA is a member, maintains and revises it.
The Joint Plan contains procedures for critical aspects of a joint response:
- alerting the appropriate federal authorities in each country to an actual or potential radiological threat
- establishing cooperative measures to minimize the threat to public health and safety, property, and the environment
- facilitating coordination among federal organizations in both countries as they provide support to affected states and provinces.
It also requires exercises every three years and annual notification drills.
The Joint Plan is consistent with the Canadian Federal Nuclear Emergency Response Plan and the United States' Federal Radiological Emergency Response Plan (FRERP). As a result, EPA's roles and responsibilities are the same as under the FRERP. (The FRERP has since been replaced by the National Response Plan.)
International Atomic Energy Agency Convention on Assistance in the Case of a Nuclear Accident or Radiological Emergency
This IAEA convention was ratified in October of 1986. It provides an international framework to speed assistance to countries responding to a radiological emergency. The convention addresses necessary aspects of the process:
- procedures and points of contact for requesting assistance
- establishing points of contact for requesting assistance
- plans for directing, controlling, coordinating, and supervising assistance
- IAEA's role in coordinating requests for assistance and in providing assistance
- protecting confidential information
- reimbursing assistance costs
- privileges and immunities afforded to response personnel by the requesting country
- transporting response personnel, equipment and property
- claims and compensation for injury or death
- terminating assistance
- relationship to other international agreements
- settling disputes.
Requests from another country for assistance initially go to the State Department, which forwards the request to the appropriate agency. EPA is the Coordinating Federal Agency for the U.S. government's response to foreign nuclear accidents. It may only be necessary to provide guidance. However, when personnel and equipment are needed, EPA must work closely with the State Department to ensure that our capability to protect our domestic public health and environment is not compromised.
AEA Convention on Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident
The IAEA Convention on Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident (1987) addresses the potential for radioactive releases in one country to affect another country. It applies to actual or potential releases that may threaten the public health or environment in another country. Such releases are known as "transboundary releases." It applies to releases from facilities and activities, such as nuclear reactors and fuel cycle facilities; transporting, storing, or managing radioactive materials for agriculture, industry, or research; and the use of radioisotopes to generate power in space objects.
The country in which the accident occurs must immediately notify any country that is potentially affected. They may do this directly or through the IAEA. They must provide the following information:
- time, exact location (if appropriate), and nature of the accident
- facility or activity involved
- assumed or established cause
- foreseeable development of the accident and transboundary (cross-border) release of radioactive materials
- general characteristics of the radioactive release, including its nature, probable physical and chemical form, as well as the quantity, composition, and effective height of the radioactive release
- current and forecast meteorological and hydrological conditions necessary to estimate the progress of the transboundary release
- results of relevant environmental monitoring
- off-site protective measures taken or planned
- the release's predicted behavior over time.
Each country must respond, as promptly as possible, to requests for information and advice on minimizing the consequences of the accident. Each country must also identify a point-of-contact. The U.S. point of contact for receiving information is the Department of State. The U.S. point-of-contact for notifying IAEA and neighboring countries is the Coordinating Federal Agency for an accident that occurs in the U.S.
For the EPA, this means that the Agency works with the Department of State to receive information from the IAEA and neighboring countries and then passes it on to responders in other federal departments and agencies, Regional EPA responders, as well as state and local responders.