Toward a better integration of Non-Radiological Public Health Aspects of Protection Strategies during Radiation Emergency Planning, Response and Recovery

Message from the workshop co-organisers:

Dear registered participants, Dear colleagues,

Our three organisations, BfS, OECD/NEA and WHO, have been monitoring closely the evolution of the COVID-19 outbreak and of all the related measures taken by many countries. In such prevailing circumstances where we are facing many travel restrictions for international participants to the workshop, we thought it would be wise to postpone the event. We are really sorry about this situation, but we are sure that all of you will understand our decision. We will keep you informed about the new dates, possibly next autumn in Germany.

We want to thank all of you for your willingness to participate and hope you will still be in a position to attend the workshop later. Once again, accept our apologies for any inconveniences our decision may involve. We are still looking forward to welcoming you in Germany for this workshop in 2020!

The Organisers

Objective and expected workshop outcomes

This workshop will build on recent developments and aims to explore the available practical solutions to reduce the mental health and psycho-social impact of radiological or nuclear emergencies and to provide efficient support following a major accident.

A new WHO policy framework that builds upon existing WHO guidelines on mental health and psychological support in emergencies is currently being developed for nuclear or radiological emergency situations. Based on this framework, workshop participants will discuss strategies and methods to assist the decision-making process for the mitigation of mental health and psycho-social impact in nuclear or radiological emergency situations. The goal is to develop generic recommendations that can be adapted to national and local issues and concerns according to the prevailing circumstances. A “whole-of-society” approach (i.e. promoting inclusiveness of all stakeholder categories) and an “all-hazards” approach will guarantee that the decision-making process will result in the best protective actions in a multifaceted fashion integrating in itself cascading events of an evolving emergency cycle.


In addition to the potential biological effects of ionising radiation, the health impacts of a nuclear or radiological accident often involve psychological and societal consequences. These non-radiological effects are a consequence of both the emergency itself and interventions to mitigate its effects. Current strategies for planning for, response to and recovery from radiological or nuclear emergencies need to be revisited and enriched by applying a holistic societal approach. Such approach must take into account the psycho-social and mental health impacts of the emergency as well as the associated response and recovery actions.

Guidance for managing the psychological and social effects of radiological or nuclear emergencies on public health would benefit from sharing experiences and lessons learnt from other emergencies. For nuclear or radiological emergencies, most existing national frameworks for preparedness and response are based on the International Commission on Radiological Protection’s principles of justification and optimisation. These principles provide guidance for protective strategies that primarily aim to prevent and reduce radiological exposure. Decisions on protective actions and countermeasures are mostly related to measurable and quantifiable concepts of radiation exposure rates, doses and radiological risk assessment. However, lessons from past nuclear accidents clearly demonstrate that the psychological effects associated with the specific circumstances of a nuclear accident should not be neglected. The consequences of accident response interventions include:

  • anxiety about future health consequences, especially for  children
  • evacuation and resettlement
  • home loss
  • disruption of the psycho-social fabric of communities and families
  • uncertainty about the possibility of returning to “normal life”

As a result, there are challenges for ensuring the implementation of best protective strategies. Strategies will be affected by the prevailing circumstances and need to balance any deleterious effects against the resources available, while addressing stakeholders‘ views and concerns.

At present, it is unclear how psycho-social and other societal and economic aspects can be included in a measurable fashion in the preparedness stage and in the decision-making during both an emergency and its recovery phase. Numerous observational studies and reports based on the Chernobyl and Fukushima accidents do not offer solutions or practical guidelines on protection strategies. The existing international safety standards include generic requirements to make provision for mitigating the non-radiological consequences such as the psycho-social effects of nuclear accidents, but offer no explicit practical guidance. Numerous organisations have recognised these issues internationally and several research projects (e.g., the EC-funded CONCERT projects such as SHAMISEN or ENGAGE, the RICOMET annual conferences) have identified key elements to improve the situation (Shamisen Recommendations, 2017).

Topical areas of interest (not exhaustive)
  • Managing risk communication to the (potentially) affected population
  • Stakeholder engagement and consideration of vulnerable groups
  • Building radiological protection culture in the population to better communicate protection strategies
  • Identification of trusted communicators and characterization of effective communication to reduce psycho-social effects
  • Information needs of affected population; psychological support and care
  • Balancing radiological and non-radiological factors and integrating psycho-social support in decision-making;
  • Quantifying and balancing negative health effects of countermeasures 
  • Similarities and differences of mental health planning for and responses to nuclear or non-nuclear disasters, including good practices in emergency risk management
  • Case studies covering one or several topics

The workshop took place on 18-20 March 2020. It included invited and contributed talks, posters as well as joint discussions.

Key dates:

  • Registration 15 November 2019 - 1 March 2020 (New)
  • Abstracts, less than 300 words, targeting one or several topical areas, should be submitted via the workshop website before 15 December 2019. Now extended to January 6th, 2020.
  • Notification of abstracts acceptance by10 January 2020.
  • Preliminary programme : 20 January 2020;
  • Final programme: 15 February 2020
  • Workshop: 18-20 March 2020

The workshop was open to mental health experts, emergency responders, and crisis responders in any sector, policy-makers, governmental and non-governmental organisations, scientists, and any other stakeholders from related fields and civil society interested in the topic.


The workshop took place at the campus of Helmholtz Gesellschaft in Neuherberg near Munich, Germany.  joint dinner was organised on 19 March 2020 at each participant's cost.

Programme Committee (alphabetical order)

  • Prof. Elizabeth Cardis, Research Professor in Radiation Epidemiology at ISGlobal, Barcelone, Spain
  • Dr Zhanat Carr, Scientist, Radiation Programme, World Health Organisation (WHO), Geneva, Switzerland
  • Dr Jacqueline Garnier-Laplace, Secretary of the Working Party on Nuclear Emergency matters under the OECD/NEA Committee on radiological protection and Public Health, Radiological Protection Expert, OECD/NEA
  • Prof. Robin Goodwin, Head of Department Department of Psychology, Warwick University, UK
  • Dr Fahmy Hanna, medical doctor and psychiatrist, World Health Organisation (WHO), Geneva, Switzerland
  • Martin Krottmayer, Senior Officer, Technological hazards prep, Civil Protection Relations Disaster and Crisis (Prevention, Response and Recovery) Programmes and Operations Division, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Geneva, Switzerland
  • Prof. Masaharu Maeda, professor at the Center for the Fukushima Health Management Survey, Fukushima Medical University, Japan
  • Patricia Milligan, vice chair of the Working Party on Nuclear Emergency matters under the OECD/NEA  Committee on radiological protection and Public Health, Senior Advisor in the Office of Nuclear Security and Incident Response, Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), United States of America
  • Prof. Deborah Oughton, Research Director at Centre for Environmental Radioactivity (CERAD), Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Oslo, Norway
  • Prof. Dr Britta Renner, Department of Psychology, Psychological Assessment & Health Psychology, University of Konstanz, Germany
  • Prof. Robert J. Ursano, Professor of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, Director Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress (CSTS) Dept of Psychiatry, Bestheda, USA
  • Matthias Zaehringer, Chair of the Working Party on Nuclear Emergency matters under the OECD/NEA  Committee on radiological protection and Public Health, Head of Emergency Management Division, Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS), Munich, Germany