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Critics claim evacuation measures for Sizewell B meltdown are ‘ridiculous’

PUBLISHED: 12:28 10 July 2017

Experts say it could take 2.5 hours to evacuate the Sizewell B area. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Experts say it could take 2.5 hours to evacuate the Sizewell B area. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Sarah Lucy Brown

New research suggesting that the area around Sizewell could be successfully evacuated in two-and-a-half hours if there was a meltdown at the nuclear power station has been labelled “ridiculous” by critics.

The reactor dome of Sizewell B Nuclear Power Station. Picture: CHRIS RADBURNThe reactor dome of Sizewell B Nuclear Power Station. Picture: CHRIS RADBURN

Emergency planning officers say the plan is based on a worst case scenario with a toxic radiation plume over Leiston and the need for people to reach the A12.

They believe they will have up to 12 hours to warn people if there is a serious incident at Sizewell B because the plant has some of strongest containment systems and defences in the world to deal with a melted core.

However, Pete Wilkinson, deputy chairman of the Sizewell Stakeholder Group (SSG), questioned the validity of the planned response, which suggests it would take two-and-a-half to three hours to evacuate up to 6,000 people from a zone of a radius of four kilometres from Sizewell B.

He said: “This plan would be incapable of being put into practice. It is absolutely ridiculous to say people could get out of that area.”

Inside Sizewell B. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNInside Sizewell B. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Co-opted SSG member Tom Griffiths-Jones did not believe local people would “sit put” when discovering something serious had happened at Sizewell.

He said: “The whole of Aldeburgh will decamp, people all along the cost will decamp.

“Have they looked at what effect that is going to have on the road network because that is really what concerns me. If you had an event on an August Bank Holiday with Aldeburgh full of tourists, the whole area full of tourists – they won’t know the area very well, and are going to want to get out fairly quickly.”

Andy Osman, head of emergency planning for Suffolk County Council, said transport planning specialists Vectos looked at the evacuation situation for “a severe accident beyond legal requirements”.

Environmentalist and SSG co-opted member Pete Wilkinson on Sizewell beach. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNEnvironmentalist and SSG co-opted member Pete Wilkinson on Sizewell beach. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

It was expected the numbers needing to be evacuated would be less than the population as 75% of people would “self-evacuate” – simply leave the area at the first knowledge of an incident rather than shelter indoors and take potassium iodate tablets and wait for an instruction to evacuate. Some 15% of people will require support by the emergency services to evacuate; and 10% will elect to remain in their homes.

Mr Osman said the council has evacuated 1,800 households in six hours in recent tidal surge incidents.

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