Emergency management


A radiation emergency is an event that may result in the exposure of workers, members of the population or the population as a whole to high levels of ionizing radiation, to prevent which immediate measures must be taken.

Events that can be classified as radiation emergencies range across a wide spectrum. Accidents involving nuclear installations are historically very rare; their potential impact, as demonstrated by the Chernobyl accidents in 1986 and Fukushima in 2011, could concern large areas, even in territories distant from their national borders. Accidents involving radioactive sources, for example in use in the medical or industrial fields, which can occur at the place of use, or during their transport. For these, historically more frequent, while not excluding the possibility of producing serious health effects, the potential consequences would remain limited to limited areas, involving limited groups of the population.

ISIN works in close contact with the Civil Protection Authorities and with the operators of nuclear installations or activities authorized to use radiation sources as well as with community and international organisations, to guarantee a rapid and effective response to a possible situation nuclear or radiological emergency.

In the field of management of nuclear and radiological emergencies, current legislation entrusts the Inspectorate with the primary task of providing the necessary technical support to the Civil Protection Authorities, both with regards to the emergency preparation phase (preparation and management of emergency systems , planning activities), and collaborating in response activities to incidental events.

In particular, the ISIN:

  • carries out the assessments of the incidental analyzes that the operators of nuclear installations are called upon to carry out, providing the Civil Protection Authorities (the Prefect for local emergencies and the Presidency of the Council of Ministers - Department of Civil Protection, for those of a national nature ) the technical bases for the preparation of emergency plans;
  • participates in the activities of the planning committees in the preparation of emergency plans;
  • contributes to the national warning system through the management of automatic monitoring systems for environmental radioactivity which, on a national scale, operate for early warning purposes;
  • it is the competent national authority within the community systems and international conventions for prompt notification in the event of a nuclear accident or radiological emergency;
  • provides, in the early stages of an emergency, on the basis of the information in possession for nuclear safety aspects, the status of the accidented installation and its foreseeable evolution, as well as the prediction of the radiological impact on the national territory following the dispersion of radionuclides accidentally released into the atmosphere;
  • hosts, coordinating its activities, the CEVaD Data Processing and Evaluation Centre, which is entrusted with the task of providing estimates of the trend in exposure levels over time and space, for the purposes of identifying and adopting the necessary measures to protect public health, as well as to support the authorities responsible for disseminating information to the population;
  • coordinates the National Environmental Radioactivity Surveillance Network, RESORAD Network.



The Nuclear Emergency Center (CEN) is the ISIN's operational structure for responding to a nuclear or radiological emergency. The services and systems that compose it operate to support the activities that the Inspectorate is called upon to carry out in the management of such emergencies.

In the event of an accident at a cross-border nuclear plant, in the initial phase of the emergency (first hours following the accident event), the Inspectorate has the task of alerting the Authorities on the basis of the information received from international prompt notification systems, for which it is the national contact point, or through its own emergency networks. He must, therefore, carry out the initial assessments of the event and estimate, through the systems for forecasting the atmospheric dispersion of radioactivity, the potential involvement of the national territory. Furthermore, as required by current legislation, it must host and coordinate the activities of the Data Processing and Evaluation Center (CEVaD), which makes use of the emergency management support systems operating in the Inspectorate's Nuclear Emergency Centre.

The tasks of the Nuclear Emergency Center are referred to in the "National Plan for the management of radiological and nuclear emergencies" (DPCM 14 March 2022).

Starting from September 2023, ISIN, through its Nuclear Emergency Centre, has become part of the competence centers of the National Civil Protection Service referred to in article 21 of the Civil Protection Code.


Prompt notification and information exchange

The Inspectorate is the competent authority in the international systems of prompt notification and rapid exchange of information; it has the task of receiving and evaluating the information that is promptly exchanged on these circuits in the event of a nuclear emergency.

These systems were introduced in the aftermath of the Chernobyl tragedy, following the agreements which established, in the event of a nuclear or radiological accident, the obligation for the country where the accident occurred to promptly notify international organizations and the countries affected or potentially affected by the effects of the emergency.

The implementation of these agreements has seen the creation of two systems for prompt notification of nuclear accidents:

  • the ECURIE system (European Commission Urgent Radiological Information Exchange) which establishes the obligation for EU countries to communicate to the European Commission and all other member countries any nuclear or radiological accident in their country;
  • the USIE System (Unified System for Information Exchange in Incidents and Emergencies) adopted by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which extends the notification obligation also to non-EU countries, whose regulatory bases are represented by the International Convention of September 1986, on prompt notification of a nuclear accident.

Added to these systems are the rapid information exchange channels created under the bilateral agreements stipulated with neighboring countries, directly by the Inspectorate with the Slovenian (SNSA), Swiss (ENSI) and French (ASN) nuclear safety authorities. , in addition to the government-level agreement between Italy and Switzerland. These agreements provide for the sending, in case of emergency, of alarm communications to the Inspectorate's CEN.


ISIN expert availability system

On-call for nuclear and radiological emergencies is structured to deal with the first phase of an emergency and, in any case, until the entire Inspectorate structure is fully activated. This, both in the case of accidents resulting from the use or transport of radioisotopes, for which, in general, a relatively unstructured activation of the system is foreseeable, and in the face of emergencies affecting nuclear plants across borders, which may involve the need for complex and prolonged management over time, which requires the full activation of the Center itself.

The organization of On-Call provides for the ready availability of different skill profiles, the coordination of which is entrusted to a specific figure, namely the Emergency Coordinator on duty. On-call availability, active 24/7, is made up of experts in the field of nuclear plant safety, radiation protection, the use of radioactive sources and their transport, environmental radiometric measurements and management support systems of emergencies operating at CEN.


Automatic early warning monitoring networks

Following the experience derived from the nuclear accident at the Chernobyl power plant, the importance of the adoption of specific emergency organizations and specific infrastructures aimed at dealing with possible nuclear accidents, even outside the own national territory. In many countries, early warning monitoring networks were therefore created, capable of reporting anomalous levels of radioactivity continuously and with adequate territorial coverage.

ISIN manages two automatic monitoring networks, with national coverage, complementary to each other: the REMRAD and GAMMA networks, which contribute to the national alert system in the event of the arrival of a radioactive cloud on Italian territory, resulting, for example, in an accident at one of the nuclear plants operating across the border.

The REMRAD Network stations located in strategic points of the national territory in which, in relation to the prevailing winds, a radioactive cloud coming from a foreign plant would appear on Italian territory. The stations are hosted at the Air Force teleposts of Bric della Croce (TO), Monte Cimone (MO) and Capo Caccia (SS), as well as at the National Institute of Oceanography and Experimental Geophysics, OGS, in Trieste. The station instrumentation is able to measure very low levels of radioactivity present in atmospheric particulates, also providing valuable information on the type of radionuclides that may be present.

The GAMMA network has a more widespread distribution across the national territory with its 64 monitoring stations, provides the measurement of the ambient dose equivalent rate, adding the component possibly present in the air with that deposited on the ground. It is therefore an effective tool for monitoring radioactive fallout following the passage of airborne contamination.

Representing Italy, the GAMMA network participates in the EURDEP platform (European Radiological Data Exchange Platform) which is the tool that the European Community has equipped itself with to respond to the requirements of Council Decision 87/600/EURATOM regarding exchange rapid analysis of the data produced by national monitoring systems during a nuclear emergency. The system therefore allows the evolution of a radioactive cloud to be followed in real time across the entire European territory.

At the international level, the GAMMA Network participates in the IRMIS system, the system developed by the United Nations Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as part of the initiatives in favor of the implementation of international conventions and in support of the role that, in terms of management to nuclear emergencies, the IAEA itself has assumed towards the international community.

The flow of data made available has recently been increased thanks to cooperation with the ARPAs of the regions that operate similar networks (Agencies of Valle d'Aosta, Piedmont, Emilia-Romagna, Lombardy, Puglia and Molise), as well as and with the monitoring network of the Ministry of the Interior, managed by the National Fire Brigade. This, following the integration of the data produced by the regional monitoring stations and the Fire Brigade network, into the systems of the Inspectorate's Nuclear Emergency Centre.


Prediction of the evolution of the radioactive cloud and estimate of the doses and contamination on the ground

These systems have the task of rapidly estimating, using meteorological data and their forecasts, the expected evolution of the radioactive cloud and the consequent radiological impact in terms of doses to the population and environmental contamination. Especially in events with the release of large quantities of radioactivity into the environment, as in the case of a serious accident at a nuclear power plant, the transport and dispersion of the masses of contaminated air and the associated time play a fundamental role in the decisions to be made protection of the population.

The first assessments of the expected impact can be made in the initial stages of a radiological emergency, before the actual arrival of the contamination and the availability of the results of environmental monitoring measures, allowing a more rapid adoption of the necessary measures. The ARIES system operates at CEN, a platform in which, for different geographical scales, models for calculating the dispersion in the air and deposition on the ground of radioactivity are integrated, as well as models for calculating the population dose which take into account the possible routes of exposure and for the different radionuclides present in the released contamination. The models are fed constantly, in real time, with meteorological data acquired by the National Center for Aerospace Meteorology and Climatology (CNMCA). The forecasts (maps) of the concentrations of radioactivity in the air and of the contamination deposited in the soil, as well as the relative doses to the population, play a fundamental role within the provisions of the national planning with regards to the definition of the different operational phases of the emergency and consequently, the implementation of the relevant protective measures to protect public health.


Radioactivity monitoring in emergencies: the Resorad network

During an emergency, ISIN coordinates and activates the RESORAD network whose data is collected and made available to CEVaD through the SINRAD system.


Data Processing and Evaluation Center – CEVaD

The Data Processing and Evaluation Center (CEVaD) is active at ISIN, which ensures a common technical reference in the management of nuclear and radiological emergencies. The Center constitutes a technical structure to support the Civil Protection Authorities, for the evaluation of the levels of radioactivity in the environment in emergency situations and the consequent levels of exposure. The CEVaD assessments are made available to the authorities responsible for managing the emergency for identifying the necessary measures as well as to those responsible for disseminating the information, together with the related radiometric elements.

In fact, all detection centers and networks must send the results of the measurements carried out during the emergency to CEVaD. Furthermore, based on the current situation, particular operating methods may be indicated by the CEVaD which all entities carrying out measures on the national territory must comply with.

The CEVaD is activated by ISIN upon request of the Civil Protection Department, or of the Prefect in the case of local emergencies. The inspectorate coordinates the CEVaD activities and provides the necessary technical and logistical support through its Nuclear Emergency Centre.

CEVaD is made up of experts in radioprotection and in the field of radiometric measurements, designated by the ISIN, with coordination tasks, by the Istituto Superiore di Sanità, by the Ministry of the Interior - National Fire Brigade Corps and by INAIL, as well as by experts of the Regions and Autonomous Provinces designated by the State-Region Conference, as well as by experts from the Italia Meteo Agency.