Professionals wearing safe garment against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear hazards.

Chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear hazards

CBRN is an acronym for chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear. It is used to refer to situations in which a threat is manifested by the presence or use of any of such agents. Sometimes the acronym is extended to CBRNE, where the E refers to the threat of malicious use of explosives.

In the field of CBRN and explosives detection, the JRC provides scientific/technical support to Commission services on measurement and standardisation, based on specific expertise in measurement and testing - in chemistry, physics, analytical sciences, measurement technologies and standardisation.

In view of the JRC expanding work the field of aviation security, explosives detection and CBRN threats, the JRC is currently developing its experimental capacity in this field. It is intended to establish a testing facility that will equip the European Commission with in-house, independent capability to test new technologies and equipment, particularly for the detection of explosives.

The JRC's work in detection of explosives is part of a broader support package called the European Reference Network for Critical Infrastructure Protection (ERNCIP).

The EU Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Risk Mitigation Centres of Excellence

The EU Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Risk Mitigation Centres of Excellence (CBRN CoE) is an initiative of the EU launched in May 2010 for the period 2009-2013. Financed by the EU under the Instrument for Stability, the CBRN CoE aims to implement a coordinated strategy at the international level to address the mitigation of and preparedness against risks, either of an intentional, accidental or natural origin, related to chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) materials or agents. The CBRN CoE is jointly managed by the JRC and the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI).

Eight regions outside of the EU are involved in this initiative (African Atlantic Façade, Central Asia, Gulf Cooperation Countries, Middle East, North Africa, South East Asia, South East Europe, the Caucasus, Ukraine and Moldova). This initiative aims at involving national, regional and international resources with the objective to develop a common and coherent CBRN risk mitigation policy at national and regional levels.

Currently 40 scientific and technical projects have been selected for funding and are being implemented in these regions with the objective to increase the institutional capacity of partner countries to fight against the risks related to the misuse of CBRN materials. The selected projects address various issues ranging from bio-safety, security risk management and forensic capacities through to CBRN import and export monitoring.

Another important objective of the CBRN CoE is the setting-up of a network of CBRN experts, organisations and partner country representatives in various regions worldwide. For this purpose, six regional secretariats are being set-up in early 2012. The regional secretariat plays a major role in ensuring there is a good level of cooperation and coordination with partner countries through their national focal points and facilitates the implementation of projects in the region. In particular, the secretariats are responsible for supporting countries in the identification of needs, formulation of project proposals of a regional concern, development and improvement of national action plans and execution of the approved projects.

Hazard Mitigation

Within the international security context, the prevention and mitigation of Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) hazards has become an important area of activity. The EU is making significant contributions to the international effort to mitigate the threat and risks associated with these materials. The JRC is implementing several RN actions of the EU CBRN Action Plan in the areas of detection technologies, forensics, response and training.

The EU CBRN Action Plan is implemented through the Directorate-General for Home Affairs (DG Home Affairs) ISEC work programmes. .As a Member of the CBRN Advisory Group, the JRC continues to give technical support to DG Home Affairs and Member States on the CBRN Action Plan implementation by evaluating a number of CBRN related studies tendered by DG HOME. The implementation of the Action Plan is guided by consultation with national authorities and other relevant stakeholders. The IAEA, Interpol and Europol are closely associated to the implementation of the Action AP. In this frame, the JRC is implementing following related actions:

  • EUSECTRA (Security Training Centre)
  • ITRAP+10 (Illicit Trafficking Radiation Assessment Programme)
  • CBRN Glossary
  • Improvement of IAEA Illicit Trafficking Database
  • Local atmospheric dispersion for CBRN
  • Nuclear Forensics
  • Virtual Reality Training
  • Performance of vehicle portal monitor under environmental conditions 

Aside from assisting DG Home Affairs in implementing the EU CBRN Action Plan, the JRC is also supporting DG Development and Cooperation-EuropeAid in the technical implementation of the EU Centres of Excellence on Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Risk Mitigation (CBRN CoE Initiative). CBRN CoE aims at implementing a coordinated strategy for the mitigation and preparedness against risks related to CBRN material and agents at the international, regional and national levels. The origin of the risk can be criminal (proliferation, theft, sabotage and illicit trafficking), accidental (industrial catastrophes, in particular chemical or nuclear, waste treatment and transport), or natural (mainly pandemics). The main objective of the EU CBRN CoE Initiative is to boost and facilitate cooperation at all levels in order to enhance CBRN capabilities, and to develop a common and coherent CBRN risk mitigation policy at national and regional level. The CoE is currently working with more than 40 countries.

The activities of JRC in support to the implementation of the CoE initiative concern all of its cycle of activities, including the development of CBRN guidelines; needs assessments and the development of National Action Plans; drafting, reviewing, analysing and ranking project proposals; assisting DG Development and Cooperation-EuropeAid in drafting Terms of Reference; monitoring and evaluating sustainability aspects of projects and undertaking quality control; actively participating in round tables, meetings, seminars and workshops; sharing information, disseminating best practice and lessons learned during project implementation; and ‘Coordination and Communication’, a CoE private portal developed by the JRC itself.

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JRC Institutes