Earlier this month, Ann Heinrich, Director of the Office of Nuclear Incident Policy and Cooperation (NIPC), within NNSA’s Office of Counterterrorism and Counterproliferation, had the honor of serving as President of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) 2021 International Conference on the Development of Preparedness for National and International Emergency Response, or “EPR2021,” which took place in Vienna.
Two representatives from her office also served on the conference’s program committee.
EPR2021 focused on preparedness for and response to radiological and nuclear emergencies regardless of the cause, including natural disasters, negligence, and malicious acts. Topics included emergency preparedness; emergency management; protection strategies; communication; public health and medical response; international cooperation and assistance; education and training; and lessons learned from past experiences.
It built on themes rising from previous IAEA conferences, including the 2015 International Conference on Global Emergency Preparedness and Response (EPR) and the 2018 International Symposium on Communicating Nuclear and Radiological Emergencies to the Public.
Heinrich opened the conference alongside IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi and Deputy Director General for Nuclear Security Lydie Evrard. She emphasized the continued importance of multilateral engagement and cooperation in EPR.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted, among many things, that emergency preparedness and response is a field with profound relevance for individuals, families, communities, nations, and indeed the world – EPR is not an abstract concept.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted, among many things, that emergency preparedness and response is a field with profound relevance for individuals, families, communities, nations, and indeed the world – EPR is not an abstract concept,” she said. “The widespread effects and unpredictability of emergencies – whether a pandemic or a nuclear or radiological incident – makes it clear that the work that we do is so important for the protection of people and the environment.”
Heinrich has also chaired the first two terms of the IAEA Emergency Preparedness and Response Standards Committee and in her opening address encouraged all Member States to nominate members to actively contribute to its work. Established in 2015, the committee is the premiere international forum where IAEA Member States can discuss, develop standards and guidance for, and advance EPR principles.
EPR2021 was conducted in a hybrid format, held both in-person in Vienna and virtually. This format allowed a wider and more diverse audience to participate. There were 536 participants registered, including representatives from 90 IAEA Member States and nine international organizations – more than the previous two IAEA emergency preparedness conferences.
NNSA representatives from across the Nuclear Security Enterprise also chaired a session, delivered presentations, and presented posters on a variety of EPR topics, including considerations for using unmanned aerial systems in radiation monitoring; combating disinformation and malinformation during an emergency; lessons learned from prior radiological release; U.S. participation in IAEA Convention Exercises; and international EPR cooperation for major public events.
The IAEA is a key partner in advancing NNSA’s international nuclear security missions.
Below are two video presentations prepared for the conference for NNSA: