IAEA Publishes Guide on Leadership and Communication in Nuclear Emergencies

The guide is intended for operators, regulators, and those working in emergency preparedness and response.

A new publication in the IAEA Nuclear Energy Series is titled "Leadership, Human Performance and Internal Communication in Nuclear Emergencies." It highlights the importance of the human factor during crisis situations, according to the UN agency.

IAEA says nuclear emergencies are extremely rare, but when they do happen, appropriate leadership qualities, human performance capabilities and internal communication mechanisms are essential to minimize their consequences.

The guide is intended for operators, regulators, and those working in emergency preparedness and response. It "provides a comprehensive analysis of the importance of leadership and communication, and discusses key attributes of leadership in emergencies, as well as the profound influence that stress can have on those involved and how to address it as part of crisis communication efforts," the agency noted Feb. 13.

"Emergencies do not often unfold as they have been modelled," the publication says. "In unusual situations, which any real emergency will certainly be, human beings are a more adaptable and intelligent resource than any machine logic. However, human beings also have limitations and do not behave perfectly, even in the most ideal situations."

Still, it says much can be done to mitigate some of the worst consequences: training exercises made to simulate realistic crisis conditions can help prepare leaders to deal with emergency situations, and knowing which personality traits fit certain job roles can help to pair those in leadership positions with proper responsibilities during a crisis. The publication also analyzes job site reviews, comprehensive communication planning, and other preparedness practices.

"The more you've thought about the situation and its potential ramifications, the more resilient you are going to be when there is a need," said Pekka Pyy, a senior expert on organization and management systems in IAEA's Nuclear Power Engineering Section and the scientific secretary of the publication.

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