Home Contact Us  
   

Nuclear - Articles

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
#5134, 23 September 2016
 

Strategic Space

Preparing for Radiological Emergencies and Terrorism
Manpreet Sethi
Senior Fellow and Project Leader, Nuclear Security, Centre for Air Power Studies (CAPS), New Delhi
 

India is still coming to terms with the aftermath of the terrorist attack on an army camp at Uri. More names have been added to the long list of Indians who have died in incidents that have been conceived and executed with the support of elements in the ‘deep state’ of Pakistan. Given that Rawalpindi shows no inclination to abandon its strategy of inflicting terror on India, one cannot but be prepared to handle acts of terrorism that may breach new thresholds in the future. Preparedness and response for a radiological emergency is, therefore, a task that the country must plan for.

A news item in the Times of India of 22 August 2016 reported the conduct of a mock drill to rehearse Indian preparedness for a radiological emergency at an airport. The news was welcome for two reasons. Firstly, reportage of such exercises helps reassure the public that the relevant agencies are duly practicing preparedness to handle such emergencies. This also has an impact on restoring public confidence in nuclear power in general, which was badly shaken by the Fukushima episode of 2011. Secondly, the handling of an off-site radiological emergency involves the coordinated participation of a number of stakeholders. 20 agencies reportedly participated in the exercise. It is only through periodically repeated drills that requisite rapport and confidence in joint operations of this nature can be built.

It is natural that emergency preparedness and response strategies (EPRs) are relatively better evolved and comparatively easier to execute when a nuclear emergency is confined to the nuclear plant or site. Such crises primarily involve quick handling by the operating staff who are better equipped with technical knowledge and also more familiar with and better trained to abide by stringent standard operating procedures (SOPs) that must be followed in crisis. It is only in case of a severe accident at plant site that other civilian agencies need to be included in consequence management.

In contrast, in case of off-site, radiological emergencies that could happen anywhere, the involvement of the public necessarily requires the participation of many governmental and non-governmental agencies for crisis management. Some places likely to face such events are predictable, such as where radiological sources are in use – hospitals, industries, etc. But, discovery of stolen or maliciously use of orphan sources or acts of radiological terrorism through dirty bombs could occur anywhere. Emergency preparedness in such cases requires a very high level of quick detection, assessment and response from both nuclear and non-nuclear administrations.

Cooperation among many national and international stakeholders is a necessity in case of a radiological emergency. Law and order agencies, fire fighting and medical services, traffic officials and first responders designated by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) must all be part of the team to quickly bring the situation under control. Above all, an effective public communication strategy must be available to use the media as a friend rather than letting it give its own spin to the crisis. Relationships built with press and local populace during moments of quiet would go a long way in communicating credibly and with confidence in times of crisis.

Over the years, India has judiciously invested in building organisational and technological expertise in EPR. The NDMA has published elaborate and precise guidelines for dealing with such emergencies. Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) has developed and employs sophisticated tools to cater for quick detection, impact assessment and response. BARC has developed special mobile and fixed monitoring equipment that can be used for detection of radioactivity and identification of contaminated areas which can assist in correct movement of the responders and evacuees. At the second level, integrated assessment software is able to predict a rapid evaluation of damage from blast, fires etc and thereby help allocate medical, fire-fighting facilities etc. Most importantly, a software tool such as the geographical information system (GIS) provides maps of areas with location of roads, buildings, hospitals, etc in order to help plan routes of evacuation or influx of responders.

However, even the best laid out plans and available technological tools can be stymied if a few common-sense issues are not adequately addressed. The first of these is the prime requirement of inter-agency cooperation. Given the involvement of varied types of responders, not all of whom have radiological emergency as their daily top-most priority, it is quite likely that each would have a different understanding or level of commitment to participation in collaborative mock drills. Caught with usual manpower and resource shortages, over-burdened services are likely to accord less priority to an event that is seen as of low probability. However, the high consequence potential of such an occurrence is the precise reason that demands the highest attention. Conduct of mock drills must be undertaken in the spirit of joint planning for an operation and there should be adequate mechanisms for feedback assimilation to effectuate improvements.

2016 has seen a rise in terrorist incidents across the world. Vulnerabilities of regions once thought to be immune to such risks stand exposed as the US and countries in Europe and Asia have undergone such strikes. Each has struggled to minimise risks as well as improve consequence mitigation. Fortunately, no act of nuclear or radiological terrorism has yet been experienced. But there is no doubt that a radiological emergency would be a mammoth operation of managing not only the physical safety and movement of the public but also involve dealing with many psychosomatic issues.

The psychological impact of an act of radiological terrorism would in fact invoke greater damage than any real threat from radioactivity. It is for this reason that dirty bombs are described as weapons of mass disruption since they would cause greater panic, at the physical, socio-economic and psychological levels. Being neighbours with a country which is not only the fountainhead of terrorism but is also flush with fissile material, a radiological emergency is a threat for India. Well planned and regularly rehearsed EPR strategies, which include education of the public, must be accorded due priority as one important plank of addressing this threat perception.

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
IPCS Columnists
Af-Pak Diary
D Suba Chandran
Resetting Kabul-Islamabad Relations: Three Key Issues
Can Pakistan Reset its Relations with Afghanistan?
The New Afghanistan: Four Major Challenges for President Ghani
Big Picture
Prof Varun Sahni
Understanding Democracy and Diversity in J&K
When Xi Met Modi: Juxtaposing China and India
Pakistan?s Tactical Nuclear Weapons: The Inevitability of Instability

Dateline Colombo

Asanga Abeyagoonasekera.
Sri Lanka: Moving Towards a Higher Collective Outcome
The Importance of Electing the Best to our Nation's Parliament
Sri Lanka: Toward a Diaspora Re-Engagement Plan
Dateline Islamabad
Salma Malik
Pakistan's Hurt Locker: What Next?
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
India-Pakistan Relations in 2015: Through a Looking Glass
 
Dhaka Discourse
Prof Delwar Hossain
IPCS Forecast: Bangladesh in 2015
18th SAARC Summit: A Perspective from Bangladesh
Bangladesh in Global Forums: Diplomacy vs. Domestic Politics
Eagle Eye
Prof Chintamani Mahapatra
India-US: Significance of the Second Modi-Obama Meet
Has President Obama Turned Lame Duck?
Modi-Obama Summit: Criticism for Criticism?s Sake?

East Asia Compass
Dr Sandip Mishra
India-Japan-US Trilateral: India?s Policy for the Indo-Pacific
China-South Korea Ties: Implications for the US Pivot to Asia
Many ?Pivots to Asia?: What Does It Mean For Regional Stability?
Himalayan Frontier
Pramod Jaiswal
Nepal?s New Constitution: Instrument towards Peace or Catalyst to Conflict?
IPCS Forecast: Nepal in 2015
Constitution-making: Will Nepal Miss its Second Deadline?

Indo-Pacific
Prof Shankari Sundararaman
IPCS Forecast: Southeast Asia in 2015
Indonesia's Pacific Identity: What Jakarta Must Do in West Papua
Modi in Myanmar: From ?Look East? to ?Act East?
Indus-tan
Sushant Sareen
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
Islamic State: Prospects in Pakistan
Pakistan: The Futility of Internationalising Kashmir

Looking East
Wasbir Hussain
Myanmar in New Delhi's Naga Riddle
China: ?Peaceful? Display of Military Might
Naga Peace Accord: Need to Reserve Euphoria
Maritime Matters
Vijay Sakhuja
Indian Ocean: Modi on a Maritime Pilgrimage
Indian Ocean: Exploring Maritime Domain Awareness
IPCS Forecast: The Indian Ocean in 2015

Nuke Street
Amb Sheelkant Sharma
US-Russia and Global Nuclear Security: Under a Frosty Spell?
India's Nuclear Capable Cruise Missile: The Nirbhay Test
India-Australia Nuclear Agreement: Bespeaking of a New Age
Red Affairs
Bibhu Prasad
Countering Left Wing Extremism: Failures within Successes
Return of the Native: CPI-Maoist in Kerala
The Rising Civilian Costs of the State-Vs-Extremists Conflict

Regional Economy
Amita Batra
India and the APEC
IPCS Forecast: South Asian Regional Integration
South Asia: Rupee Regionalisation and Intra-regional Trade Enhancement
South Asian Dialectic
PR Chari
Resuming the Indo-Pak Dialogue: Evolving a New Focus
Defence Management in India: An Agenda for Parrikar
Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan: Implications for Asian Security

Spotlight West Asia
Amb Ranjit Gupta
Prime Minister Modi Finally Begins His Interaction with West Asia*
A Potential Indian Role in West Asia?
US-GCC Summit: More Hype than Substance
Strategic Space
Manpreet Sethi
India-Russia Nuclear Vision Statement: See that it Delivers
Global Nuclear Disarmament: The Humanitarian Consequences Route
Nasr: Dangers of Pakistan's Short Range Ballistic Missile

The Strategist
Vice Admiral Vijay Shankar
Jihadi Aggression and Nuclear Deterrence
The Blight of Ambiguity
Falun Gong: The Fear Within


OTHER REGULAR contributors
Gurmeet Kanwal
Harun ur Rashid
N Manoharan
Wasbir Hussain
Rana Banerji
N Manoharan

Ruhee Neog
Teshu Singh
Aparupa Bhattacherjee
Roomana Hukil
Aparupa Bhattacherjee


 

Browse by Publications

Commentaries 
Issue Briefs 
Special Reports 
Research Papers 
Seminar Reports 
Conference Reports 

Browse by Region/Countries

East Asia 
South Asia 
Southeast Asia 
US & South Asia 
China 
Myanmar 
Afghanistan 
Iran 
Pakistan 
India 
J&K  

Browse by Issues

India & the world  
Indo-Pak 
Military 
Terrorism 
Naxalite Violence 
Nuclear 
Suicide Terrorism 
Peace & Conflict Database 
Article by same Author
The Bomb Banned: By and For the NNWS, For Now

Stabilising Deterrence: Doctrines Score Over Numbers

Chinese Responsibility on DPRK: No ‘Theory’, Immutable Reality

Indian Nuclear Policy and Diplomacy

New NPR: Can It Break New Ground?

US-North Korea Military Swashbuckling and China's Role

Nuclear Ban Treaty Conference and Universal Nuclear Disarmament

Forecast 2017: Unclear Nuclear Pathways

Limits of Practising Nuclear Brinksmanship

Presidential Elections and US Nuclear Policy: Clinton Vs Trump

Motivating Pakistan to Prevent Cross–Border Terrorism: With a Little Help from Friends

JCPOA’s First Anniversary: Significance and Future Challenges

Entry into the NSG: Getting Past the Doorman

Same Age, Different Behaviour: Nuclear India and Nuclear Pakistan

Nuclear Security Summit Process: Progress and Prognosis

Pak's Nuclear 'Normality' through External Deals: Chasing a Chimera

Forecast 2016: Nuclear Issues That Will Dominate the Year

India-Russia Nuclear Vision Statement: See that it Delivers

Global Nuclear Disarmament: The Humanitarian Consequences Route

Nasr: Dangers of Pakistan's Short Range Ballistic Missile

Uranium and Nuclear Power: Three Indian Stories

A Strategic Review for India

Indian Ratification of the Additional Protocol: Mischievous Reports Miss its Significance

Time for India-China Nuclear-speak

India and No First Use: Preventing Deterrence Breakdown

ADD TO:
Blink
Del.icio.us
Digg
Furl
Google
Simpy
Spurl
Y! MyWeb
Facebook
 
Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
Year 2017
 January  February  March  April  May  June  July  August  September  October
 2016  2015  2014  2013  2012  2011  2010  2009
 2008  2007  2006  2005  2004  2003  2002  2001
 2000  1999  1998  1997
 
 

The Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS) is the premier South Asian think tank which conducts independent research on and provides an in depth analysis of conventional and non-conventional issues related to national and South Asian security including nuclear issues, disarmament, non-proliferation, weapons of mass destruction, the war on terrorism, counter terrorism , strategies security sector reforms, and armed conflict and peace processes in the region.

For those in South Asia and elsewhere, the IPCS website provides a comprehensive analysis of the happenings within India with a special focus on Jammu and Kashmir and Naxalite Violence. Our research promotes greater understanding of India's foreign policy especially India-China relations, India's relations with SAARC countries and South East Asia.

Through close interaction with leading strategic thinkers, former members of the Indian Administrative Service, the Foreign Service and the three wings of the Armed Forces - the Indian Army, Indian Navy, and Indian Air Force, - the academic community as well as the media, the IPCS has contributed considerably to the strategic discourse in India.

 
Subscribe to Newswire | Site Map
18, Link Road, Jungpura Extension, New Delhi 110014, INDIA.

Tel: 91-11-4100-1902    Email: officemail@ipcs.org

© Copyright 2017, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.