National Emergency Plan for Nuclear Accidents (NEPNA)

Planning for a nuclear emergency

Although Ireland has neither nuclear weapons, nor a nuclear power industry we have a detailed National Emergency Plan for Nuclear Accidents, known as the NEPNA.

For information and advice on the measures you should take to protect yourself and your family, go to What do I do?

What’s the purpose of the national emergency plan?

As the Chernobyl and Fukushima accidents showed, radioactive contamination does not respect national borders.  Even an island like Ireland cannot quarantine itself from radioactivity released into the atmosphere elsewhere in the world.

If such an accident did occur in the future in the UK or Western Europe, the consequences for Ireland could be serious. The central purpose of NEPNA is to minimise the impact on Ireland and its people in the event of a major nuclear accident abroad.

What kind of nuclear accidents might affect Ireland?

The kind of nuclear incident that might affect Ireland include:

  • An accidental core meltdown or explosion at a nuclear plant
  • A terrorist attack on a nuclear installation abroad
  • The detonation of a nuclear bomb abroad
  • An accident involving a nuclear-powered ship or submarine near the Irish coast
  • An accident involving a vessel carrying nuclear materials near the Irish coast
  • The re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere of a nuclear-powered satellite

How would the national emergency plan help?

The national emergency plan would allow the rapid implementation of protective measures within the first few hours and in the days after the accident.

The central goal of the plan is to substantially reduce public exposure  to any radioactive contamination which might reach Ireland. This in turn would minimise the potential long term health risks to the population.

Who is involved with the national emergency plan?

The national emergency plan is coordinated by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government and involves a number of other government departments and agencies working together, along with An Garda Síochána, Met Éireann, and the main TV and radio stations.

The EPA’s Office of Radiological Protection, formerly the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland, has played a central role in developing and updating NEPNA since the 1990s and, in the event of a nuclear accident, would play a key role in its implementation.

How do we know the plan will be effective?

Regular drills and training exercises are carried out to ensure the smooth implementation of NEPNA.  In addition, every organisation involved with NEPNA conducts its own specific drills and exercises to ensure that each individual part of the NEPNA will be executed with efficiency.

Could NEPNA be implemented to deal with non-nuclear emergencies?

In theory, the NEPNA could be invoked for non-nuclear emergencies, such as major spillages of radioactive materials or fires involving radioactive materials.

However, unless there were exceptional circumstances, these non-nuclear emergencies would be normally dealt with by the licensee's emergency plan or by the local authority's Major Emergency Plan.