Energy: Nuclear Power Stations

House of Lords written question – answered on 15th January 2014.

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Photo of Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Green

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what arrangements are in place to evacuate populations from (1) within the three-mile designated emergency planning zone, and (2) the wider thirty-mile zone, around nuclear power plants, in the wake of significant radiation release from an accident in cases where roads within both zones are impassable due to (a) widespread flooding, or (b) heavy snow cover.

Photo of Baroness Verma Baroness Verma The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change

Detailed off-site plans for responding to reasonably foreseeable radiation emergencies are developed by local authorities hosting nuclear sites in accordance with Regulation 9 of the Radiation (Emergency Preparedness and Public Information) Regulations 2001 (REPPIR). These plans focus upon areas surrounding nuclear sites known as Detailed Emergency Planning Zones (DEPZs). The sizes of these DEPZs differ from site to site, ranging from 1km to 3.5 kilometres in radius.

Local Authorities hosting nuclear sites are advised to draw up plans to enable them to extend measures described in their detailed plans if necessary (e.g. in response to very severe emergencies). These are known as “extendibility” plans. Further information about extendibility planning is available on the gov.uk website:

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/69113/NEPLG_guidance_ch_9_-_extendibility.pdf.

Off-site plans cover the application of a range of counter-measures, one of which is evacuation. Local Authorities must ensure that their off-site plans are resilient to a range of weather conditions (e.g. those leading to, or involving, flooding or heavy snow).

In accordance with REPPIR, off-site plans are reviewed and tested on a regular basis, to assess their accuracy and effectiveness, and are continually updated and improved. The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) is responsible for ensuring that such reviews and tests take place. Further information about REPPIR is available on the Health and Safety Executive's web site : http://www.hse.gov.uk/radiation/ionising/reppir.htm.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) also continually assess the UK's overall preparedness in terms of planning for, and being able to respond to, nuclear emergencies.

Following the events at Fukushima in Japan in 2011, ONR carried out a detailed assessment of the implications of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami for the UK (the Weightman Report), which included analysis and recommendations concerning preparedness for severe and prolonged emergencies. The 2011 report and the assessment of progress against the report can be found on the Health and Safety Executive’s website:

http://www.hse.gov.uk/nuclear/fukushima/.

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