Space4Security workshop

A highly practical event focused on showing the current development stage of the PEERS platform to improve the EU resilience against CBRN threats (Budapest/online, 25-26 April 2023)

On 25-26 April 2023, PEERS and one of its partners, Székely Family & Co. Non-profit Ltd., co-hosted the Space4Security workshop in Budapest, Hungary, a highly practical hybrid event focused on showing the current development stage of the tools built for reaching PEERS’ goal.

To maximise the intellectual outcome of the workshop, a first day was dedicated to the Hungarian think-tankers, while the next session was open for great minds all around the world.

By holding this event, PEERS consortium got access to the otherwise unreachable input of eventual or potential end-users and professionals, overcoming the language barrier.

Although some attendees – especially the ones that deal with chemical, biological and nuclear instances – were not so familiar and comfortable with the world of standards, they were able to give their two cents regarding how PEERS could be an even more user-friendly, and up-to-date platform for all who need it.

Many great recommendations were made as of the outcome of the situational exercises of the first and second days. Some of the ideas detailed the optimal usage of the future platform: available application for desktops, data-back-up options. They also expressed that it may be a wise decision to make the e-service available in two versions: for anyone interested in a trial, free sign-up period and a premium version for the professional sectors and entities who would use it during day-to-day operation. The integration of already running, but strictly separated databases was also discussed during the workshop’s sessions. The amalgamation of these systems would greatly improve the reach and accumulated knowledge of PEERS, providing a synergetic, versatile database to fill the gaps of the global order of procedure during any kind of disaster-management.

We were delighted by the number of off- and on-line attendees participating to the workshop. The taken interest was already an achievement, however the quality of experience of those who were present during the event raised the imaginary standard we set up for ourselves. The total years of professional experience of the participants were 341 years, which averaged 14 years of experience per person. We had the opportunity to cultivate this “statistical” potential which gave a huge confidence-boost for the project. The feedback we received from the otherwise quite gender-balanced attendees proved that the direction we had taken during the first steps of the execution of PEERS, was in the right way with the appropriate motion. According to the approving and applauding reactions from the participants, we were right to choose an interactive, key-word oriented system to provide the front end of the database for standards, directives and action-ready plans from the global atmosphere.

The main point of this two-day event was the situational exercise mentioned in passing. To sum it up, we provided the participants with four disaster scenario-descriptions based on true events. A biological threat occurred in 2017, when a wastewater treatment plant in Cluj Napoca released antibiotic-resistant bacteria into the Somesul Mic river. A radiological threat happened in 2018, when a scheduled flight arrived from Turkey with a heated-up, type B isotope container in the lower baggage compartment. The container was carrying Ir-192 (Iridium 192) radioactive material, which emits very strong, highly destructive gamma radiation. A chemical disaster happened in 2010, when the North-Western dam of the N10 (caustic waste) reservoir of the Ajka alumina factory collapsed, resulting in an estimated one million cubic metres of hazardous liquid waste – red mud/sludge – being released from the reservoir into the surrounding ecosystem. A nuclear, double threat was registered in 2011, upon detection of a magnitude 9 mega-earthquake near Japan, when the reactors in Fukushima nuclear power plant were automatically shut down. However, the tsunami caused by the earthquake destroyed the plant’s seawall, flooded several units, and the system lost power necessary for cooling reactors. The loss of cooling led to three nuclear meltdowns, hydrogen explosions and radioactive releases.

Using these cases as examples, we held group discussions led by generic, but aim-oriented questions showing the advantage of the PEERS platform. After analysing the professional answers to our enquiries (e.g., occurrence of threats, preventability and preparedness), we concluded that the chance of similar catastrophes happening nowadays as detailed above is similar or higher than before. Furthermore, these experiences and the erratic environment we live in did not help the level of preparedness and made the defense system a bit weaker regarding preventability. A new balance has to be found between restriction of information for security reasons and sharing it with the aim to increase collective preparedness. The current era we live in gives us many challenges that need a comprehensive approach to successfully face them. We can safely say that we do not have the luxury of taking the easy, comfortable way of leaving out the international input to regional problems. A regional problem (e.g., pouring toxic matter into living water) is regional only until the problem reaches the borders. As we are already familiar with it: catastrophes and disasters do not really acknowledge the concept of national borders.

The practitioners were in great agreement that PEERS will help with cross-understanding the individual (national or organisational) method to prevent and manage disasters, overspilling of hazardous matters, and somewhat handling nuclear disasters. According to their statements, if efficiently used, PEERS will be an all-knowing book that combs through similar events, methods, standards, policies, and helps to prevent defects in one’s plans. Effectively, it will help with executing training and drills – be they industrial or governmental, even educational. The first version of PEERS dataset will be available for public access in the last quarter of 2023.