Regulator Still Fails To Protect Public

Public safety in the event of an accident at Sizewell is handled by:

  • The local Sizewell Stakeholders Group (SSG). which scrutinises the stations and is a two-way conduit between the industry and the public.
  • Suffolk County Council, responsible in law under the 2001 REPPlR Act (well pre—Fukushima) to protect us via its Suffolk Resilience Forum (SRF)
  • And the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR), Government-appointed but proudly “independent”, advising the SSG, the SRF and the public.

The SSG is deeply worried about leaflets the SRF plans to send out about the emergency plans. The SRF is determined to muddle the public by classifying it into two inadequate emergency zones but three information zones, based upon REPPIR, and steeped in nuclear-friendly folklore from well before Fukushima. And the ONR?

The Head of the ONR belongs to the Heads of the European Radiological Protection Competent Authorities (HERCA). This body, together with the Western European Nuclear Regulators Association (WENRA), has brought out the HERCA-WENRA Approach to nuclear emergencies, based upon what Fukushima tells us all. The ONR has been hammering out this new Approach with HERCA since 2013. It was agreed last June and published last November. The HERCA-WENRA Approach:-

  • Is “independent of the scenario of the accident” – NOT limited to EDF Energy’s convenient fictions
  • Includes “the highly unlikely event of a severe accident” — NOT REPPlR’s “reasonably foreseeable emergency” beloved of the industry and Government
  • Stresses “uncertainties cannot be excluded” — NOT fixed in received wisdom
  • Warns “a severe nuclear accident cannot be completely excluded anywhere in the world, including Europe”, NO SIGN of any omniscience there.

At its simplest, this means evacuation up to _5_l_(_rp and sheltering to Mm, with the public ready to extend these to _2_C_) and 1_O_Q km respectively. SRF, on the other hand and in its ancient wisdom, holds to 1Km for evacuation and sheltering, with prior information extending only to 15 KM. Clouds and cuckoos spring to mind.

Told of this dangerous gap, what says the ONR man to the worried SSG? That ONR has to “work within the legislative framework”, ie REPPlR; and that “Generally the ONR look at the safety case for the plant …within the design basis of the plant”. Severe accident? HERCA-WENRA? They’ve nothing to do with the case, tra la la!

We have protested to the Minister in the Cabinet Office responsible for Civil Contingencies about this yawning gap. Contingencies are happenings. What happens in the event of an accident at Sizewell ought at least to benefit from the lessons learnt at Fukushima. Not on fossilised SRF/ONR bureaucracy.

Contributed by SDSC member Peter Lanyon