Еxperts in radiological and nuclear issues from three continents gather for the closing session of the SUNKAR international exercise

14 June 2017, Astana. Gumilyov Eurasian National University offered its premises and active support to organizers, participants and guests of the Regional Radiological Emergency Response Tabletop Exercise “SUNKAR” that took place in Astana on 13 and 14 June, convened by the European Commission and the International Science and Technology Center with support from the European Union Chemical Biological Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Center of Excellence (CoE) for Central Asia, the Vienna-based engineering and management consultancy ENCO and the Kazakhstan’s Institute of Nuclear Physics.

Baubek Somzhrek, ENU’s Vice-Rector for International Relations and Innovation and  Gulnara Merzadinova, ENU’s Vice-Rector for research, welcomed at the University’s museum of cultural and historical heritage guests from the European Commission, representatives of the US and Japanese embassies, members of the Governing Board of the International Science and Technology Center, participants and observers in the regional radiological emergency response exercise from more than 20 countries across Central Asia, Africa, the Middle East and South East Europe. They all gathered at ENU for the closing session of the exercise that represented a simulation of the decision making process on the selection and implementation of emergency protection and recovery measures upon a stealing of a sealed high activity source. All the members of the Steering Committee of Project 60 attended the closing ceremony.

The management of ENU took special interest in the international event because of the high relevance of the topic – preparedness of people and institutions to respond to radiological and nuclear risks and accidents. Use of radioactive sources in medicine, households, research and industry offers a wide range of benefits making our lives more comfortable, safe and secure. Nevertheless, in cases of inappropriate use or lack of security, radioactive sources could become a threat to population and environment. The main goal of planning for emergency preparedness is to ensure that adequate response capabilities are in place and emergency response teams are equipped and trained. Sound emergency preparedness and response is therefore to be regularly tested through dedicated exercises and field actions.  

The Regional Radiological Emergency Response Tabletop Exercise “SUNKAR” assembled participants from Central Asia (Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan and Mongolia), observers from the 12 countries-participant in Project 60 from Eastern and Central Africa as well as representatives from the Persian Gulf and South East Europe. Hosted by the Institute of Nuclear Physics in Astana, SUNKAR went beyond the traditional scheme of similar exercises: it included practical demonstration of radiation measuring and identification techniques along observations of the facilities at the host institute. Maxim Zdorovets, Head of the Astana Branch of the Institute for Nuclear Physics expressed the satisfaction of the host institute with the opportunity to transfer expertise and share knowledge with experts from so many countries with varying levels of institutional and regulatory preparedness to face radiological risks.

Dr. Edi Maier, Head of Sector CBRN, Directorate General Development Cooperation (DG DEVCO), European Commission, voiced gratitude to ENU for its active support to the regional exercise, which is a continuation of similar events that already took place within the EU CBRN CoE initiative. The choice of venue and partners for the tabletop exercise in Kazakhstan, Dr. Maier said, is testimony to the rich experience the country has accumulated in tackling radiological and nuclear issues at all levels – legal, technical, research and industry. Kazakhstan demonstrates as well readiness to share its knowledge and expertise with other countries in and beyond the region of Central Asia.

The Regional Radiological Emergency Response Tabletop Exercise SUNKAR took place within a weeklong commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the International Science and Technology Center (ISTC), headquartered in Astana. ENU and ISTC share similar goals in advancing top quality science, technologies and research in the region of Central Asia by connecting expertise and knowledge of people and institutions.