Locals have their say on Sizewell emergency plans

SUFFOLK residents are being invited to have their say on proposed changes to emergency planning arrangements relating to the Sizewell power station sites.

The Sizewell off-site emergency plan is due for review this year and must take account of developments at the site and changes in national policy and guidance. Specifically, the plan needs to be updated to reflect the fact that the Sizewell A station is no longer generating electricity and implement lessons learned from the Fukushima accident in Japan.

Suffolk is the first county to consider changes to civil nuclear off-site emergency plans since the release of the Fukushima report. This is being done as part of a routine three-yearly review of the plan for how emergency services, councils and other agencies would respond to an incident at the site.

In the UK, the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) is responsible for putting International Atomic Energy Agency standards into practice by setting minimum safety zones around nuclear power stations.

From January 7, 2013, people who live within the immediate area and up to 15km from the site will have access to a detailed consultation booklet setting out the proposed changes to the precautionary safety arrangements, and inviting them to have their say.

Specifically, the proposals include:

● Extending the detailed emergency planning zone from its current 2.4km to 4km in line with new international guidelines. Residents who live in this area would receive regular information on emergency actions and would be the first priority in the unlikely event of an incident at the site.

● Setting up a precautionary emergency planning zone up to 15kms to improve awareness of emergency planning arrangements to this wider area and allow prompt extension of any emergency response in more extreme situations.

● Increasing capacity for evacuation, rest centres and radiation monitoring.

● Asking residents for their views on the best way of receiving information on actions to take in the event of an incident.

● Widening the list of pre-identified vulnerable groups who might be evacuated in the surrounding area to include play groups and residential care homes.

Andy Fry is Suffolk County Council’s director of public protection and represents the county council on the Suffolk Resilience Forum – the partnership responsible for agreeing Sizewell emergency arrangements. The forum includes local councils, emergency services, local health authorities and the Environment Agency.

Andy said: “I would like to reassure residents that these proposals do not mean that they are at any greater risk – in fact they are at lower risk because the Sizewell A station is no longer in operation generating electricity.

“The recent changes to national emergency planning for nuclear incidents provide us with a timely opportunity to review our safety arrangements at Sizewell.

“This process is about providing the best possible safety arrangements in the extremely unlikely event of an emergency situation. To do this effectively, we must learn from recommended best practice and make certain we have done all we can to protect Suffolk people. A key part of this is inviting residents to have their say on the proposals as part of our three-month consultation. This will inform the final plan when it is published later this summer.”

Since 2006, when the original Sizewell A station stopped generating electricity, the risk of a radiation emergency causing local community impact has reduced.

The Sizewell Site operators, EDF Energy and Magnox, are responsible for preparing a complimentary on-site emergency plan which aims to contain any potential release of radiation and stabilise the power station in the unlikely event of an incident.

The public consultation begins on 7 January and ends on 8 April 2013. In addition to a targeted mail-out to residents who live within 4km of the Sizewell site, copies of the consultation booklet will be available at local libraries and online.

More information, including the booklet and online survey form, is available from www.suffolk.gov.uk/consultations