New plans for nuclear ‘Doomsday’
Last updated at 11:43, Thursday, 19 July 2012
PLANS on how to evacuate large numbers of people across Copeland following a serious radiation incident at Sellafield might have to be made soon.
Nuclear new-build would increase the urgency for a shake-up of emergency plans, under which new evacuation zones might have to be established all the way between Whitehaven and Millom, with further plans to deal with the aftermath of radiation fallout for at least a week.
As well as this, Copeland will have to prepare for how it would deal with devastating effects on business, tourism, health care and re-housing the homeless.
The area’s emergency responses have been under review since Japan’s Fukushima reactor disaster.
The Fukushima disaster which caused “panic and confusion” and led to people being evacuated into areas with higher radiation brought home the ultimate ‘Doomsday Scenario’, but David Moore, chairman of West Cumbria Stakeholders emergency planning committee, said: “We want new reactors but our role is to prepare for the day we hope will never happen. We have a huge task coming up.”
Copeland’s current evacuation area stretches only six kilometres covering parishes close to the site such as Seascale, Beckermet, Gosforth and Drigg but involving a relatively small population without touching Egremont or Thornhill.
The issue was discussed on Tuesday at a meeting of Copeland Council’s Strategic Nuclear and Energy Board, headed by council leader Elaine Woodburn.
Coun Woodburn said: “It would be important for any new nuclear power station to have its own emergency planning arrangements which are robust and stronger from what we have learned from the incidents in Japan.
“ We all know we can always learn and strengthen our knowledge and arrangements. These reports have helped us do just that.”
Mr Moore told The Whitehaven News: “If you extend to Egremont, Whitehaven or Millom to the south, then you are talking about much larger numbers for evacuation.”
Emergency exercises so far are based only on dealing with a simulated incident lasting less than a day. Now, in the light of advice from the Office of Nuclear Regulation, local authorities have to look at extending arrangements which could last up to a week at least and involve major upheaval.
The outcome could be extended evacuation areas stretching to 10 kilometres but Mr Moore said this did not prove sufficient around Fukushima, so Whitehaven and Millom may have to be included.
Local authorities are being asked to help “enforce a stronger testing regime and to review capability of emergency services to deal with response and exposure levels”.
Extending Copeland’s emergency responses far beyond the present range would also be closely linked to nuclear new-build as reactors – however safely designed – have potential for a serious accident.
Japan’s investigation concluded: “There was great confusion over the evacuation, caused by prolonged shelter-in-place orders and voluntary evacuation orders... some residents were evacuated to high dosage areas because radiation monitoring information was not provided.”
The disaster itself was described as “natural” – it was sparked by a tsunami – but the panic and confusion “man-made”.
Coun Moore said: “As things are, once a simulated incident (at Sellafield) is over and dealt with by the emergency services response everyone is stood down, but in reality we could be left with a huge swathe of contamination covering West Cumbria, with the local authorities being left to handle a huge situation over goodness knows how long.
“What hasn’t been tested is what will be happening five days on, looking at the recovery process and what’s left for the councils to clean up.
“How do local authorities deal with a situation where hotels and businesses have been affected or shut down, when our tourist trade would go down the pan overnight, and people left homeless and unemployed? That’s not to mention the dairy cows out in the fields and still needing to be milked because they are at higher risk.
“Like the Windscale pile fire in 1957, the milk would just have to be collected and poured away, but the cows would still have to be milked. I can’t emphasise just how huge all this is.
“As a community we need the reassurance that we can deal with an incident once the emergency services have done their bit, as they have shown they can time after time in Sellafield exercises.
“What we have in force now is advice to shelter and then advice where to self-evacuate to. The danger is that people might evacuate unwittingly into areas where radiation levels are actually higher, but it’s understandable because they could be looking for family, children could be sheltering in schools but you could get parents venturing out to look for them.
“And it doesn’t have to be a major disaster such as a tsunami, which is unlikely to say the least – a series radiation leak, a terrorist attack are scenarios we have to deal with, and the recovery process.”
“Calder Hall, on which past exercises have been based, is closed but new reactors are going to define the evacuation boundaries,” said Mr Moore, adding that potassium iodate tablets to counter radiation intake, which were withdrawn after Calder closed, would have to be re-distributed.
First published at 11:10, Thursday, 19 July 2012
Published by http://www.whitehavennews.co.uk
Have your say
well i think sellafeild would be better off giving us a premiership football club instead of putting money into a evacuation plan
I'm very glad that Copeland have focus at at plan that a serious radiation incident at Sellafield might have to be made soon. In the Nordic countries we are worried about what the the consequences may be. A report from Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority said that a hypothetical accident at Sellafield. The scenario considered involves an explosion and fire at the B215 facility resulting in a 1 % release of the total HAL inventory of radioactive waste with a subsequent air transport and deposition in Norway. Air transport modelling is based on real meteorological data show that it may be 10 times Tjernobyl for Norway. If you want the link to the report, please mail me.
View all 6 comments on this article