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Thursday, July 22, 2021, 14:55 (GMT+7)
Solutions to raise the quality of responding to radioactive and nuclear incidents

Applying radioactive and nuclear technology to socio-economic development is an inevitable demand of all countries, including Vietnam. However, it will increase the risk of radioactive and nuclear incidents. Thus, seeking solutions to improve the effectiveness of responding to radioactive and nuclear incidents serves as a matter of importance and urgency.

A radioactive and nuclear incident is defined as loss of radioactive safety, loss of nuclear safety, and loss of security of radioactive sources, nuclear materials, nuclear equipment, radioactive facilities, and nuclear facilities. Radioactive and nuclear incidents could lead to significant consequences to human health (death and disease), the environment, and social life. Nevertheless, for the sake of socio-economic development, a number of states have been investing in nuclear power plants, which could increase the risk of radioactive and nuclear incidents. In addition, it is worth noting that illegal trafficking and ownership of radiations are complex, while international terrorist groups are seeking every way to possess nuclear and radioactive weapons to carry out their operations, thereby posing a high risk of radioactive and nuclear incidents.

Being fully aware of those facts, our Party and State have always focused on preventing, identifying and readily effectively handling radioactive and nuclear incidents. Over the years, in addition to designing and completing the system of normative legal documents on responding to incidents, our Party and Government have placed emphasis on conducting propagation relating to chemical prevention in general, response to radioactive and nuclear incidents in particular to raise authorities, sectors, organisations and citizens’ responsibility for this important work. They have also mobilised all resources to improve functional forces’ task performance, with a view to minimising human and material losses.

There is a fact that the danger, complexity, and extent of damage of radioactive and incidents are extremely considerable, while our chemical prevention force and its equipment are limited. To deal with this problem, it is necessary to synchronously adopt measures to mobilise resources and strength of the whole country in which the chemical corps will play a core role.

First of all, build an extensive, solid, inter-connected, flexible posture of chemical prevention to meet the task requirements. This is a solution of importance to the operation of the Chemical Corps. In the building of the posture of chemical prevention, it is essential to focus personnel and means on the key regions, the strategic areas, and the central missions. The Chemical Corps’ Command should frequently gather information from relevant ministries, sectors, provinces and municipalities about their plans for chemical industry development and their application of nuclear technology. Grounded on such information, it should make plans for chemical force disposition favourable for manoeuvre to respond to incidents and quickly perform the chemical task in operations when the enemy uses radioactive and nuclear weapons and others of mass destruction. As a mobile, strategic, core force, the Chemical Corps should ensure a balance of strength in regions and directions, particularly in the strategic areas and the economic, political, social, cultural, and defence-security centres. In the medium term, emphasis should be placed on perfecting the organisational structure of the Centres for responding to toxic chemicals and radioactive and nuclear incidents in the North, the Central Region and the South, the ASEAN Environmental Remediation Team, and the National Action Centre for Toxic Chemicals and Environmental Treatment (NACCET) as well as modernising these units. Chemical units of military regions, services and other corps should be organised in accordance with the building and operation of provincial-level defensive zones, while playing a core role and cooperating with other specialised and on-the-spot ones in opportunely, effectively settling incidents and disasters under the Government’s Decree 02/2019/NĐ-CP, dated January 2nd, 2019 on civilian defence. Besides, great value should be attached to formulating projects on mobilising enterprises to provide equipment and materials of chemical prevention on the spot for response to radioactive and nuclear incidents as the basis for making the posture of all-people national defence strong and capable of transforming into the people’s war posture in the event.

Second, grasp the situation and opportunely adjust the chemical force properly to effectively respond to radioactive and nuclear incidents. A thorough grasp of the situation will provide an important scientific basis for chemical commanders and competent offices to develop plans and projects on using the force in response to incidents. To that end, the chemical force should exploit sources of information, particularly reports on the scene and the monitoring data by the Radioactive Nuclear Monitoring System within the Military to identify the cause and source of radiation and nuclear materials. Grounded on such data, the Chemical Corps’ Command should cooperate with functional offices in advising the Central Military Commission and the Ministry of National Defence on plans to deploy the force to reconnoitre and examine the scene, and gather necessary figures so as to anticipate the development of the incident. It should continue adjusting the force, means, equipment and materials, while establishing sections in line with the incident’s scale. Adjustments in personnel and means, particularly the Scene Headquarters and the mobile force should be based on their function to ensure that each force could perform its task independently and cooperate with others in dealing with a large-scale incident at the same time. Besides, to quickly, effectively settle the incident, it is necessary to avoid tampering with the force structure.

Third, improve the quality of training and the capabilities in commanding and operating the settlement of radioactive and nuclear incidents. To meet the task requirements, the Chemical Corps’ Staff should regularly renew the training programmes and contents. Emphasis should be placed on raising cadres’ commanding, operating capacity and skills in responding to incidents and providing intensive training for the specialised force (the Centres for responding to toxic chemicals and radioactive and nuclear incidents, the Environmental Remediation Team, and the NACCET) to make them capable of playing a core role in dealing with complicated situations across the country and readily taking part in regional and international missions when requested. Moreover, units should increase night-time, practical, field training and organise high-intensity training in complex terrain and weather conditions. Specialised technical and tactical training should be combined with training courses on settling post-war radiations and toxic chemicals and environmental incidents, while troops should be trained to master new-generation equipment.

Furthermore, commanders and offices should be trained to master new equipment, while their capabilities in updating new legal normative documents on radioactive and nuclear control, evaluating the situation, quickly forming the determination correctly, and commanding the settlement of incidents opportunely, effectively should be improved. In the medium term, the Chemical Corps should organise and participate in specialised training courses on responding to radioactive and nuclear incidents both at home and abroad. It should proactively exchange information on training and research relating to the settlement of radioactive and nuclear incidents, while taking advantage of support from partners and international organisations for training. Due regard should be paid to completing the command system in a modern, synchronous, uniform fashion and gradually building an automated command and control system.

Fourth, enhance scientific research and international cooperation in the settlement of radioactive and nuclear incidents. This solution acts as a determinant to the quality and effectiveness of responding to nuclear and radioactive incidents. Therefore, the Chemical Corps should focus on bettering its capability in anticipating the risk of incidents within our country and the region, particularly our neighbours, while applying new technologies to manufacturing and acquiring sufficient modern chemical equipment. In the medium term, it is important to accelerate and apply the Programme on “researching nuclear safety techniques to ensure the Military’s combat readiness in the period of 2016-2020, with orientations towards 2030.” In addition, it is vital to effectively implement the Project on “building and consolidating the radioactive monitoring and warning system within the Military.” Priority should be given to modernising equipment of environmental monitoring stations, building the Environmental Treatment Technology Complex and the National Action Centre for Toxic Chemicals and Environmental Treatment (NACCET), and upgrading laboratories and workshops to meet the task requirements. At the same time, consideration should be given to applying scientific and technological advances to designing and manufacturing new equipment, modernising the command, control, and training system for the chemical force, and improving the capability in anticipating radioactive and nuclear incidents.

Additionally, it is necessary to promote cooperation in information exchange, forecast and warning, building mechanisms of coordination for cross-border radioactive and nuclear incidents. Cooperation with other countries, particularly the developed ones and our neighbours should be encouraged to receive and transfer technologies and experiences in organising the force in charge of responding to radioactive and nuclear incidents. Last but not least, it is essential to proactively take part in international exercises on responding to radioactive and nuclear incidents and defence policy dialogue mechanisms with other countries, such as ASEAN Conference, ARF, ADMM+, MCIP, and ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response (AADMER) to meet the requirements of national construction and protection.

Sr. Col. NGUYEN DINH HIEN, Deputy Commander and Chief of Staff of  the Chemical Corps

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