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The global nuclear industry’s established robust safety culture is helping related organisations to act fast and modify their processes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is providing support to fourteen countries situated in Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America to tackle the COVID-19 outbreak.

It is offering diagnostic kits, equipment and training in a nuclear-driven diagnostic technique called real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR).

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Health and safety / COVID-19
Nuclear industry

Somik Das, a senior power analyst at research firm GlobalData, comments: “Measures have been taken to screen nuclear power plant (NPP) workers and isolate those who show COVID-19 positive symptoms through temperature checks to detect fever. All countries have advised their staff to work remotely and not on-site, hence aiding with social distancing measures.”

He adds: “In the US, officials have mentioned that they may quarantine crucial NPP technicians and suggest them to live onsite, to decrease their proximity with others. Besides, many operators are stocking food supplies, beds and other essential items to support their staff for this purpose.

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Global nuclear energy operations responding to COVID-19

“Key NPP staff could be required to stay in assigned accommodation and commute to and from the nuclear facility in separate transportation. To safeguard the health of workers in regions where the occurrence of the virus may rise considerably, actions such as changing shift patterns are being assessed.

“The IAEA’s RT-PCR technique is of crucial assistance. It enables the detection of the virus precisely within hours in humans, along with animals that may host the virus. This method can also provide more information about the exposure and transmission pattern of the virus. This eventually would prove to be a significant tool to detect and curb the further spread of the virus.

“These measures will enhance the safety precautions undertaken by the nuclear plants. They would help keep the workers free from getting infected and at the same time allow operations to run seamlessly. These measures will be especially important to countries such as France, Finland and Ukraine, for which nuclear power made up 46.4%, 26.3% and 25.5% of their respective cumulative installed capacity in 2019.”