Safety fears over nuclear incident

KEY information about a public evacuation in the event of a serious accident at the Sizewell nuclear site has been removed from a multi-agency website for “security and operational” reasons, it has been disclosed.

David Green

KEY information about a public evacuation in the event of a serious accident at the Sizewell nuclear site has been removed from a multi-agency website for “security and operational” reasons, it has been disclosed.

The website of the Suffolk Resilience Forum, the umbrella group for emergency planning in the county, includes a copy of a lengthy document detailing arrangements which would be implemented as the result of a major release of radioactivity at the nuclear site.

However, pages giving key data about evacuation routes and centres have been omitted at the request of Suffolk Constabulary.


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Emergency services will be responsible for the evacuation of members of the public in the event of a serious radiation release.

Residents and people working within a 2.4 kilometre radius of the site are routinely provided with potassium iodate tablets which can be ingested in the aftermath of an accident to reduce the amount of radioactive iodine being absorbed into the body.

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People within the zone are also annually handed a calendar detailing initial advice which includes staying indoors, shutting windows and doors and listening to emergency information broadcast by radio stations.

The main factor behind the decision to exclude evacuation routes and centres from the website is thought to have been the fear of roads being blocked and buildings targeted in the follow-up to a terrorist attack on the nuclear site.

The direction of the wind carrying radioactivity would also help determine the selection of routes and centres.

But the omission of the information from the website has drawn criticism from Pete Wilkinson, an independent nuclear consultant who is a former member of the Government's advisory committee on radioactive waste management.

He believes more information needs to be made available to more people, including the parents of schoolchildren over a wide area of Suffolk.

“If the two most important issues parents need to know are too sensitive to include in the plan then I despair,” he said.

Mr Wilkinson, a member of the Sizewell Stakeholders Group, set up to improve liaison between the local community, the site operators and safety agencies, said the scope of the information made available to the public, and the area of supply, should be subject to independent assessment.

“Flyers” containing relevant information should be distributed over a wide area of Suffolk, not restricted to the Leiston and Saxmundham area as planned, he said.

While information was given to the headteachers of schools, it appeared that no follow-up work had been carried out to ensure the information was passed on, added Mr Wilkinson who believes the public should be given full details of the risks and the likely radiation doses they would receive.

Andy Osman, Suffolk's head of emergency planning, said his aim was to make as much information as possible available to the local community.

“That's what we're working towards. We continually review what information goes out and we'll listen to any criticism and respond in due course,” he said.

Plans had already been drawn up to trace the distribution of information given to school heads.

A Suffolk police spokesman said: “There are planned evacuation routes in place under the critical incident plan; however, due to security and operational reasons a decision has been made that the information should not be in the public domain.

“If an incident occurred which required an evacuation, there would be immediate communication of the appropriate evacuation routes to any affected communities.”

david.green@eadt.co.uk

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