Emergency plan delayed at Sizewell power station
A LONG-AWAITED public consultation over proposed changes in plans to protect the community near the Sizewell power station site in the event of an emergency is to be delayed – on the orders of the UK nuclear safety watchdog.
Suffolk anti-nuclear campaigners have been pressing for early changes to the Sizewell plan, partly to reflect the impact of the Fukushima disaster in Japan last year when many thousands of people were evacuated from a 20-kilometre radius of the site after an earthquake and tsunami.
Among the demands is an increase in the radius of the Sizewell emergency zone, currently 2.4km and excluding almost all of the nearby town of Leiston.
The Suffolk Resilience Forum, the organisation responsible for drawing up the Sizewell plan, has been working on a review for much of this year and was ready to start a public consultation later this month. However, the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) has now directed that the start of the three-month long public consultation be delayed – pending a national report on nuclear emergency planning.
The ONR is looking at the size of emergency zones and how the public can be kept informed, especially in the event of an accident involving a release of radioactivity.
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It is taking part in a United Nations-sponsored conference on post-Fukushima emergency planning, scheduled for the end of this month.
Andy Osman, Suffolk's head of emergency planning, said yesterday: 'The Suffolk Resilience Forum, which is leading the Sizewell review, has postponed the consultation to consider important national information, which will not be available until later this year.'
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He said the organisation – a partnership between Suffolk County Council, the emergency services, health officials and other agencies – was committed to working with the operators of the Sizewell site to review the emergency arrangements for the area 'to ensure they are effective and meet modern standards'.
It was also committed to consulting the public to try to ensure emergency plans remained robust.
Pete Wilkinson, a Suffolk environment consultant and member of the Sizewell Stakeholder Group, said: 'If the delay is for positive reasons and the final result is that the plan gives us what we have been pressing for then I'm prepared to wait.
'If the final result is a revamp of the existing plan then that would be totally unacceptable.'
Charles Barnett, chairman of the Shut Down Sizewell Campaign, said the delay was unacceptable. 'A disaster could happen at Sizewell B at any time and updated emergency plans should be in place as quickly as possible,' he added.