On 26th November, the Lithuanian Chairmanship of the CBSS Civil Protection Network hosted the Baltic Excellence Programme (BEP) Seminar “Baltic Sea Region: acting together against nuclear risk”. The seminar focused on Information Management, Decision making and protective measures, and Recommendations to the public.
The Lithuanian Chairmanship prioritises the question of nuclear risk and disaster prevention, since it is vital for the Baltic Sea Region to have a functioning cooperation on these matters. For instance, according to one potential scenario, it would only take twelve hours for a radioactive cloud moving from a nuclear power plant in Belarus to reach the Nordic countries. Thus, to prepare for a nuclear power plant emergency, countries in the Baltic Sea Region take measures including risk management planning, exercises & training, strengthening of response capacities, and information sharing.
The risk of a Nuclear emergency is estimated to be quite low, but the consequences would have a dire impact on people living in the entire region. Mr. Edgaras Geda, Chief of the Civil Protection Board, Fire and Rescue Department under MoI, LT, opened the seminar and presented the results of the questionnaire on Nuclear and Radiation Safety Information Management. Mr. Geda highlighted the importance of having:
- Detailed arrangements, based on existing Nordic countries example to be used by all CBSS Member States
- Common open IT platform for information sharing and coordination of decision making
- Instant coordinated communication for all residents in the CBSS area; otherwise, the protective actions could be spread through unauthorized channels by civilians and not by competent authorities.
Mr. Ernestas Trunovas, Chief of the Population Protection Division, Fire and Rescue Department under MoI, Lithuania, presented and led the discussion on ‘Decision making and protective measures’. Mr. Trunovas noted that different models work in different contexts and that one system is not necessarily better than another. However, Nordic cooperation and Nordic Flagbook present an excellent model for regional cooperation in the BSR. He concluded that “proper planning leads towards good decision making”; and that “good planning is never perfect, actors must be ready to plan not only measures, but challenges as well and then pre-plan solutions”. These solutions should be compiled into a list of best practices, in the National Plans and then included in international Flagbooks.
Lastly, Ms. Ieva Gatelyte, Chief Specialist of the Population Protection Division, Fire and Rescue Department under MoI, LT, presented on ‘Recommendations to the public’. Utilising tools to strengthen public awareness of nuclear emergencies. It is important to build credibility and trust with the public before a crisis occurs so the public will trust authorities in the event of a crisis. The spread of fake news and misinformation can also be decreased by raising public awareness of existing authorities. The approach of the Fire and Rescue Department is to use different methods to reach the public and increase the knowledge of radiation and nuclear emergencies and how to cope with it.
Conclusions from the BEP Seminar
- Work on more detailed arrangements among CBSS Member States, considering existing Nordic countries examples;
- Consider having a common approach (for example, an open IT platform) for information sharing and coordination of decision-making;
- Coordinate communication to the public in the CBSS area;
- Encourage re-establishing CBSS Expert Group on Nuclear and Radiation Safety; and
- Continue sharing best practices on preparedness for nuclear or radiological emergencies.
The online seminar is the first event on the calendar for the Lithuanian Chairmanship, which will focus on preparedness for nuclear and radiological accidents as well as COVID-19 and the Bornholm Declaration. Upcoming events will also include the CPN Senior Experts Meeting, in February 2021, that will concentration on lessons learned from COVID-19, as well as the 19th meeting of the Directors General that will take place in Vilnius in May 2021.
Presentations from the seminar: