8 July 2008The United Nations nuclear watchdog agency is to stage a simulated accident at a nuclear power plant in Mexico tomorrow to test emergency response systems. Some 74 member States of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), as well as 10 international organizations will be participating in the 48-hour drill which starts tomorrow at Mexico’s Laguna Verde nuclear power plant. The IAEA says the exercise will provide an opportunity to identify shortcomings in the national and international emergency systems to a potential radiological emergency, and that the agency’s Incident and Emergency Centre will work around the clock during the drill. At the same time, the IAEA stresses that since it will be a “virtual” accident it will pose no risk to the public or the environment.Tomorrow’s exercise is the third in a series, after earlier drills were conducted in Gravelines, France, in 2001 and at Cernavoda, Romania, in 2005. The drills test communication, response times and the operation of information exchange mechanisms worldwide.Under long-established emergency conventions, the IAEA receives notifications of incidents then alerts its member States and other organizations and coordinates the response to requests for assistance.The UN World Health Organization (WHO) will also be taking part in the exercise to test its capacities in public health risk detection, assessment and response, and its effectiveness in coordinating with other international agencies.