Protecting Nuclear Facilities from Natural Hazards

Critical facilities infrastructure is vulnerable to the impact of natural hazards. These impacts can trigger the release of toxic substances, fires, and explosions, potentially resulting in health effects, environmental pollution, and economic losses. For instance, in 2013 a landslide in Ecuador damaged the Trans-Ecuadorian oil pipeline and resulted in transboundary pollution incident, Hurricane Harvey caused several oil spills and chemical releases in Texas in 2017, and the Fukushima nuclear accident in the wake of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan in 2011 resulted in widespread nuclear contamination. The case of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant demonstrated the tragic outcome of the interaction between severe natural phenomena and nuclear power plants, that is, the severe natural phenomena are a great threat per itself, but their damaging effects could be multiplied when a natural phenomenon damages a hazardous facility like a nuclear power plant.

To be well prepared for the eventuality and handling of natural calamities International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) the regulatory body for the peaceful use of nuclear energy has developed a natural hazard alerting system for the early detection and protection of nuclear facilities from natural hazards. A system that will provide early detection alerts from prompt natural hazards like earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, flash floods, and wildfires that can potentially affect nuclear facilities.

The integrated system is named as External Events Notification System (EENS). Developed by IAEA scientists collaborating with the University of Hawaii’s Pacific Disaster Centre and Tenefit Application Developers USA. This system can provide early feed alerts about natural hazards which can help to implement early safety procedures inside and around the nuclear facility. This will enhance the safety of nuclear facilities will help to resolve the people’s concern about nuclear facilities and tackle the global critics on the safety of nuclear facilities.

In case of a disaster, the system will produce a preliminary estimate of the impact on nuclear facilities and the population near them. The report-based damage forecast will be sent to IAEA’s incident and emergency center within 30 minutes for international emergency preparedness, communication, and responsiveness to the nuclear and radiological emergency. Such a system can also be implemented in other critical facilities making them more resilient to natural hazards.

Sources:
1. iaea.org
2. world-nuclear.org

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