Nato-Russia Council

NRC Nuclear Safety Exercises: 10 Years 10 Stories Anniversary Feature

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The NRC has a track record of expert level dialogue and cooperation in the area of nuclear weapons safety. The NRC Nuclear Experts sub group was created to examine these issues. Most importantly, since 2004 NRC experts have participated in four nuclear weapons safety field demonstrations in Russia, France, the US and UK. The demonstration is an event in which an NRC host nation invites nuclear experts from other NRC nations to observe one of their regular exercises, which is designed to test the response capabilities to accidents or incidents involving nuclear weapons.

For a nation holding the demonstration the aim is to exercise, in as realistic a way as possible, civil military structures in their response to a simulated major incident involving nuclear weapons. This usually involves the armed forces, Ministry of Defence, as well as local emergency services, local government and other civil organisations. For the NRC observers it provides an excellent opportunity for experts to study different national experiences and best practices, and exchange views with their counterparts.

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Field capability demonstrations

The latest of these field capability demonstrations, named ‘DENUX’ took place in 2007, France invited 60 nuclear experts from NATO-Russia Council (NRC) member nations to observe its Nuclear Weapons Accident Response Capabilities Demonstration at an air base in Central France. Senior French Airforce representatives gave introductory briefings, while the exercise itself demonstrated capabilities to deal with a potential accident involving nuclear weapons.

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Previous demonstration exercises in Russia, the UK and the US

In August 2004 the Russian Ministry of Defence organised a large scale demonstration exercise called ‘AVARIA’ on a military base near Murmansk and NRC experts were invited to observe it. Then Russian Minister of Defence Sergei Ivanov and representatives of the Russian Duma also attended the demonstration. Three separate exercises took place on a significant scale with different scenarios. The first exercise simulated a terrorist attack on a convoy carrying nuclear weapons, while another exercise simulated an attack on a railway nuclear weapons transport.

Then in 2005 in Edinburgh, the UK also held a capabilities demonstration exercise named ‘SENATOR’. The exercise scenario simulated an accident occurring on the Edinburgh City bypass.

‘CAPEX’ took place in Wyoming, USA in 2006. The NRC Nuclear Experts Group was invited to observe a US Nuclear Weapons Accident Response Capabilities Demonstration Exercise held on an Air Force base.

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These activities in which experts observe each other’s best practices and share experiences significantly contribute to improved understanding and greater cooperation between NRC nations in the field of nuclear weaponsensuring safety and security.

As well as demonstrations of capabilities to respond to an incident where nuclear weapons safety is challenged, the NRC has also conducted expert seminars on Nuclear Doctrine and Strategy in 2005, 2009 and 2011. In 2007, a lessons learned meeting on nuclear weapons incidents and accident exercises took place.