National planning for a radiological incident

It is very unlikely that an incident in Ireland would lead to a widespread radiological emergency. However, here we can provide information about what would happen if such an emergency should occur.

What kind of incidents might lead to a radiation emergency?

Radiological incidents that could trigger an emergency can be broken down into three categories:

  1. An accident involving a radiation source regulated under licence by the EPA. Potentially dangerous incidents might include:
  2. A deliberate criminal act or terrorist attack. This could include:
    • The detonation of a dirty bomb 
    • An arson attack on a building which contained a source of radioactivity
    • The theft of a source of radioactivity
  3. A major incident with widespread radiological consequences. Examples of such events might include:
    • An accident at a nuclear installation abroad
    • The re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere of a nuclear-powered satellite
    • An accident involving a nuclear-powered ship or submarine. 

What happens if a radiation emergency occurs?

The scale of the response would depend upon the severity of the emergency and the potential danger it posed.

Any incidents with a nuclear dimension could activate the National Emergency Plan for Nuclear Accidents (NEPNA).  All major radiological emergencies, whatever their cause would be handled within the Framework for Major Emergency Management.

Every major emergency has common elements, whatever the cause of the crisis.

However, radiological emergencies can also involve unique dangers which require specialised expert input. The general Framework for Major Emergency Management is supplemented by a specific protocol, which sets out procedures to ensure a coordinated response to any major emergency with a radiation or nuclear dimension.

Who would be involved in tackling a major radiation emergency?

A range of organisations are ready to move into action in the event of a major radiological emergency in Ireland.

These include:

  • Government departments
  • Local authorities
  • The principal emergency services
  • The Defence Forces
  • Health Service Executive
  • Met Éireann
  • Food Safety Authority of Ireland
  • EPA

The scale and composition of any mobilisation would depend on the magnitude and precise nature of the emergency.

What would be the role of the EPA in a major radiation emergency?

The EPA would immediately be notified of any major incident involving radiation. Our broad responsibilities are:

  • To respond by sending an expert team to the site of the incident
  • To assist with radiation monitoring
  • To confirm the levels of radiation
  • To assess the radiation risks posed
  • To provide advice on protective measures and public safety
  • To notify the relevant international organisations, if appropriate

In the event of a nuclear incident, we would also