In the unlikely but not impossible case of a future nuclear accident, what should be done – or not - to improve the health surveillance and living conditions of affected populations without generating collateral damage or unnecessary anxiety? This is what the EC-funded project SHAMISEN, coordinated by ISGlobal, has tried to address over the last 18 months with an analysis of lessons learned from Chernobyl and Fukushima. The result is a document with 28 recommendations to improve the preparedness and response to a radiation accident.
The document highlights the importance of planning the response “in times of peace” and includes recommendations to improve training of professionals, establish disease registries to know whether these diseases increase after the accident, and establish evacuation protocols and routes if necessary. Recommendations ‘during’ the response include providing timely and reliable information on the accident situation and associated risks, and ensuring collection of radiation dose data. For the ‘after’, the main recommendations include establishing a dialogue between experts and affected communities with the help of local facilitators, and providing support to populations that wish to make their own dose measurements so they can take informed decisions (e.g. what food they eat or if and when they return to their homes). Recommendations also include providing health screening of populations on a voluntary basis and with adequate counselling to avoid unnecessary anxiety, and launching long-term public health studies only when informative and sustainable over time. All recommendations were developed taking into consideration the cross-cutting issue of ethics and the involvement of local stakeholders, including the population.