EU spends EUR540 million to counter biological and nuclear risks

The European Union is ploughing over half a billion euros into the creation of a new “strategic stockpile” to counter perceived new chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) threats.

The move comes in the same week that Western sanctions over Russia’s invasion gained new impetus when dead civilians shot at close range were found in the town of Bucha after it was retaken from Russian forces.

The EU said that in order to improve its preparedness and response to public health risks such as CBRN threats, the Commission is building up strategic reserves of response capacities through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism.

This includes a €540.5 million strategic stockpile, established in close collaboration with the Health emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA).

The stockpile will consist of equipment and medicines, vaccines and other therapeutics to treat patients exposed to CBRN emergencies agents, as well as EU decontamination reserve to provide decontamination equipment and expert response teams.

As an immediate first step, the EU has mobilised its EU medical reserve to procure potassium iodide tablets which can be used to protect people from the harmful effects of radiation. Already almost 3 million iodide tablets have been delivered to Ukraine via the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, with the help of France and Spain.

On this occasion Janez Lenarčič, Commissioner for Crisis Management said: “We are taking concrete measures to increase Europe’s preparedness in the face of potential threats. We are setting up both a decontamination reserve and a new stockpile of equipment tailored to chemical, biological or nuclear emergencies. I am thankful for member states in this effort. Our aim is to provide rapid response capabilities for our citizens if such an emergency ever occurs.”

Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Stella Kyriakides, added: “Health security needs preparedness. Preparing for chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats is an essential element in keeping our citizens safe, and a key element of a strong European Health Union. HERA is our watchtower and has been working around the clock to support EU actions through the Civil Protection Mechanism to provide preparedness support to Ukraine and our Member States.”

The EU said that people may be exposed to CBRN agents as a result of unintentional disasters (eg a chemical plant leak, nuclear power plant incidents, the spread of an infectious disease) or intentional incidents (eg a terrorist attack). Being prepared to address the risks of such threats is a key part of the EU CBRN stockpiling strategy. The Commission is therefore developing:

  • A strategic EU CBRN emergencies stockpile:The stockpile, which is designed with member states, will include response equipment – such as personal protective equipment and detection, identification and monitoring devices – and medicines, vaccines and other therapeutics. The stockpile will make a crucial contribution to build CBRN resilience in the EU as it will include equipment and medicines that may be hard to manufacture in times of crisis or that may be suddenly required in larger amounts than what is available in national reserves. The CBRN stockpile is a first step towards establishing better capacities in response to nuclear power plant incidents, chemical facility emergencies, terrorist attacks or the spread of an infectious disease and many more.
  • EU decontamination reserve: This will comprise both staff and equipment to decontaminate people, infrastructure, buildings, vehicles or critical equipment that have been exposed to CBRN agents. Upon request of the affected Member State, the EU decontamination reserve can be deployed. The reserve will be developed and hosted by Croatia, Germany and Spain and will be 100% EU-financed with an initial budget of €66.7 million.

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